Angry pharmacists: almost all pharmacies in Hérault will be closed this Thursday

Angry pharmacists: almost all pharmacies in Hérault will be closed this Thursday

Hanane Acajjaoui fermera sa pharmacie Lafayette de l'Arc, sur le Jeu de Paume, ce jeudi, en signe de protestation. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

Faced with a loss of purchasing power and drug shortages, pharmacists fear competition from internet platforms. They will be closed this Thursday, May 30.

This Thursday, May 30, nearly 100% of pharmacies in Hérault will be closed. Unions, Order of Pharmacists, Union of Pharmacist Health Professionals, Pharmacy Students… Everyone is united to defend a profession which has suffered hard blows in recent years, and which sees a new reform looming with anxiety.

Drugs becoming increasingly rare

This shortage is THE problem n° 1 daily. "In more than thirty years of experience in the profession, I have never seen that", testified in January 2023 Bruno Galan, president of the Regional Order of Pharmacists. For a year and a half, the situation has only gotten worse. Medicines cost less in France, and laboratories primarily supply countries where their margins are higher…

"When I do night duty, I have a lump in my stomach, testifies Alice Bazile, who holds a pharmacy in Ovalie. It’s complicated to explain to young parents that I don’t have antibiotics. We work in a network but we don't always have the solution. I try to put aside anti-diabetic medications for our patients, when possible…".

"I was on call recently and spent more than half my time trying to find alternatives, call doctors, who are also wasting their time…"

"The ruptures which were occasional are now permanent, deplores Hugues Bernon, owner of the Verdanson pharmacy. Last week, I had a patient who had a heart attack, I called everywhere, without success. It puts terrible pressure on us. Because the drugs that are missing are also those that are essential for life and survival. Some customers understand, others don't…"

“Our job is always more difficult”

Christelle Quermel chairs the Hérault Pharmacists' Union (FSPF 34).

What is your main problem ?

The shortage of medicines! 5,000 medications are affected, and it continues to increase. It has been calculated that for a pharmacy, this shortage represents 12 hours of extra work per week!

Do you fear deregulation ?

Yes, we have one of the finest local health networks in the world, and the government wants to tackle this by opening the sale of medicines on the internet. This competition would be terrible. We have taken on many new missions in recent years, but our income is declining. Our job is always more difficult.

How does it translate ?

By pharmacy closures, especially in rural areas, but also in the heart of Montpellier. While there are 1,000 new inhabitants per month in Hérault! In France, there is more than one closure per day, and the pace of closures is accelerating. We have fallen below 20,000 pharmacies.

Will there be any pharmacies open this Thursday, May 30 ?

With the exception of those who are requisitioned, no, because the entire profession is up in arms against this reform. The last time this happened was ten years ago. The government wanted to liberalize the sale of medicines in supermarkets. This deregulation returns in another form today.

Internet sales make us fear the worst

That was almost ten years ago. On September 30, 2014, almost all of the 403 pharmacies in Hérault had closed their doors. At the time, it was a protest against the authorization of the sale of medicines in supermarkets.

New general closure on May 30, 2024, with the exception of pharmacies requisitioned by the Regional Health Agency. This time, it is the creation of internet platforms dedicated to the sale of medicines, advocated by the government, which is feared by an already weakened profession.

"This risks destroying the territorial network which is the strength of pharmacies", deplores Katy Garcias, president of the USPO union in Hérault, who launched a petition. "This would also harm the security and quality of delivery", continues Christelle Quermel.

In the city center, the pace of closures is accelerating

The rural world is no longer the only one affected by pharmaceutical desertification. In the city center of Montpellier, several of them have closed, such as Place Jean-Jaurès (transferred to Juvignac), Place Saint-Roch, or Boulevard du Jeu de Paume (replaced by a café).

The latest one ? That of the Agora, boulevard Louis-Blanc. "I wanted to transfer her to a neighborhood where there was no pharmacy, but that was not accepted, deplores Hugues Bernon. As a result, we merged with that of Place Albert 1er, which we kept. It was complicated to have two pharmacies 200 meters from each other. Today, it’s difficult to get by with a turnover of less than one million euros."

"I moved in 2016 but I am already one of the oldest in the city center", observes Hanane Acajjaoui.

Finances in the red, exhaustion…

"Our missions have evolved a lot in recent years, with vaccination in particular", recalls the president of the Pharmacists' Union of Hérault.

"We have not had any revaluation since 2019 and at the same time, our expenses have increased by 25%, underlines Katy Garcias. We have increased salaries so that they keep up with inflation, but our results are in free fall. There is a shortage of 60,000 € per pharmacy over one year."

"We do a lot of listening and advice, but we are understaffed and therefore exhausted. It is not with all these difficulties that we are going to inspire young people", testifies Alice Bazile, who is also a professor at the University of Montpellier.

Pharmacists were on the front line during Covid. "Many left after that because they were disgusted, observes Hanane Acajjaoui. There is a lack of recognition of the profession in France and all of this is demotivating. I have seventeen employees, but I have never found any partners. If things don't improve in the coming years, I will stop working in France."

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