Pharmacies have a very dense network in France and are easily recognizable by the green flashing cross displayed outside.
Pharmacies are usually open from Monday to Saturday, between 9:00 and 20:00 hrs. Being closed on Sundays and public holidays, however, there will always be at least one in each area that provides out-of-hours service (service de garde). Look for a notice in the window of any pharmacy to find out which pharmacy is scheduled.
Medicines tend to cost usually less than in many other European countries due to state imposed price restrictions.
If you are a member of the French social security system, prescribed medicines are partly reimbursed by it. On the box you will find a detachable label (vignette) which you put on your claim form. The percentage reimbursed is as follows: 65% for a white vignette and 35% for a blue one. If you have complementary insurance, this may cover the remainder of the amount. If you are subscribed to some schemes (such as the Complementary CMU, AME, etc.) you do not pay anything for prescribed medicines.
If you have a Carte Vitale and the pharmacy is linked on-line with the French social security system, you pay only part which is not reimbursable (35-65%). Otherwise pay the total cost and then send a form (feuille de soins) with the vignette/s to your local CPAM for reimbursement.
Some pharmacists now offer a third-party payment (Tiers-payant) service, where they cover the charge of the prescription and then get payment on your behalf directly from the social security system and from your provider of complementary health insurance. This means you pay nothing when you collect your prescription and makes the process more convenient. Ask your local chemist and your complimentary health insurance broker for details.
For your information, France is a quite restrictive in the distribution of medication. Many drugs (such as antibiotics) that may be freely available in other countries are strictly prescription drugs in France.
Pharmacists in France are highly-trained, as they hold a diploma requiring six years of university studies. They are generally highly competent in providing treatment for many common illnesses and ailments. While not a substitute for a doctor if there is something really wrong with you, they can be a good place to start if you're sick.
For updates regarding pharmacies and medicine in France, visit our website on expatriate healthcare at.