France is no longer the world’s biggest consumer of medicines, but not because they are taking less.
There are many fascinating sights and experiences in France, but one that will not be on the official list of tourist attractions is to stand in a queue at a local pharmacie.
Such are the number of prescription medicines that are handed over the counter that it is not unusual to see some customers walking out looking as though they have just completed a visit to their local Carrefour.
The French health regulators have been railing about the excessive use of medicines for years, but doctors have been reluctant to yield to the demands of their patients for fear of legal retribution. And, of course, for every consultation, doctors receive a fee!
Well, it now seems the French are no longer the only nation in the world that is addicted to pill popping, for new study shows that we are all becoming 'medicaholics'.
Such as been the growth in the use of medicines in other countries of Europe that France has lost its title as the champion drug user.
At least that is the view of a group of researchers based at the ESSEC Business School outside of Paris, who recently compared medicine consumption in six major countries of Europe – Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom and France.
They examined the level of medicine consumption for eight categories of medical problems - bacteria, anxiety, depression, ulcers, cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and asthma - which accounted for 35% of all medical prescription sales.
They found that since 2000 the consumption of most of these drugs had risen in all countries, but that in France at a lower rate. Indeed, the consumption of anti-biotics had actually reduced marginally in France.
This meant that whilst at the turn of the last decade the French were amongst the highest per capita consumers in 7 out of 8 medications, in 2011 this occurred in only one medicine.
France retains its first place in the use of anti-biotics, but the country had fallen down the table in the consumption of medicines for five other illnesses – depression, ulcers, cholesteral, hypertension and diabetes.
Whereas in 2000 France was the second largest consumer of anti-depressants, it was now in fourth place, due to the large rise elsewhere.
It has also fallen from third place in 2000 to last place in 2011 in the consumption of anti-anxiety drugs, once again due the large rise in other countries, notably Spain and Italy!