Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > ?? on over the counter drugs in France

?? on over the counter drugs in France


Feb 7th, 2006, 09:15 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,412
?? on over the counter drugs in France

I really am trying to pack lighter this next trip. Last time I brought vitamins, Zantac, immodium, advil,lactate, etc. (besides prescription stuff) So my question is....are all these things readily available in France? (Italy in Fall)
I can't fudge on prescription stuff but I know I can cut down on other things.

Same question applies to cosmetics..!

Thanks...no car these next two trips. Have to lighten up for the train.
loisco is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 09:21 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,121
Generic equivalents are often available, or equivalents with other brand names. I don't know about Zantac but I suspect there is an equivalent (or the same drug) in France. Vitamins are not a problem; you can get those at any pharmacy. Immodium (loperamide) is available as Imossel, in capsules or chewable tablets (with simethicone for gas). Ibuprofen (Advil) is available under many brand names. I'm not sure which lactate you mean.

All drugs in France are sold exclusively in pharmacies, even non-prescription drugs. The selection is very large and you can get just about any OTC stuff you need. Except Pepto-Bismol, though, which is banned in France (!).

Cosmetics are even easier to get, since most of them were first developed in France, anyway. Places like Sephora have gigantic selections.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Lois, some of those things are certainly available in France, although perhaps the names might be different, but some of those things are items you need to take every day, not just in case (vitamins, lactate which I think is calcium). So, I don't see why buying them in France would help any as you'll have to then spend time to go shopping and pack them, anyway, if you are moving around or to come home. A few pills can't take up much space, I wouldn't think. If you are taking these out of necessity for a regimen, I think you need to take them daily.

As for just in case things, they do have immodium type products in France, but I don't recall if the name is the same or not. I think in many cases, you should write down the chemical name of what you use, in case you need to show it to a pharmacists. Zantac is sold under some other names in France (like Azantac or Ranitidine, from what I read), but is a chemical you should write down.

As for cosmetics -- now you know they sell cosmetics in France. YOu might enjoy shopping for them just to see what they have that might be a little different, but if it's for packing reasons, I'd pack what I needed rather than spending time immediately shopping for cosmetics and then you'd have to pack them anyway. Maybe I'm cheaper than you, but I wouldn't buy cosmetics and just throw them away after a few uses, as they can be quite pricey nowadays.
Christina is online now  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 09:28 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 3,654
I have read somewhere( I think in Stephen Clarkes book "A Year In The Merde") that the French love their pharamcies and get there as fast as possible at the hint of a sneeze or sniffle.
In other words loisco - you can get everything and more at the hundreds upon hundreds of pharmcies in Paris alone. Theres a 24hr one on the Champs Elysees.
I would only take a few pills like imodium (because it's hard to get to a drugstore when you've got the trots) & maybe a headache pill.
tod is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 10:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,117
I had a terrible cold in Paris last March and haunted a few pharmacies myself. They are wonderful. The staff are helpful and I brought alot of it home with me and have used it ever since.
SharonG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 11:06 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,759
I always stock upon on Claritine (sp?) while I'm there. The Pharmacists are typically very helpful.
SAnParis is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 11:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,926
It is more common, by the way, to administer drugs as suppositories in France. Don't be surprised if you get what looks like an unusually large pill or two....
PatrickLondon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 11:38 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,630
LOL Patrick! suppositories are supposed to be given to babies and kids (not always though) because they can't swallow pills. (or maybe it could hurt their stomach)
Claritine (you're right San) is for hay fever (useless for me )
You can find immodium as well. I'm not so sure about Advil now. I've read bad reviews about it and stopped giving it to my children.
Unless my compatriots I'm not a drug addict ;-)
cocofromdijon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 11:49 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,028
I have pills that I take every day, and some OTC stuff that I take as needed. What I usually do is put all of those in one pill bottle (take them out of the original packaging, in the case of OTC drugs) so that I don't lose space to the packaging.

However, there is always the unexpected, and as mentioned, French pharmacies will have whatever you need, if not exactly the name brand you are used to seeing. I forgot to pack any anthihistime and went to the pharmacy across the street from my apartment, asked if anyone spoke English (after the usual bonjour, madame, etc.), and when no one said yes, was able to get what I needed simply by saying "quelque chose pour la nez" and pointing at my nose. What they gave me was an OTC medicine that worked very well. Of course, I wouldn't want to have to use the same approach if I was having diarrhea or some other more embarrassing ailment, but you do whatever you have to when the situation arises.
twk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,630
be careful with your nose (le nez). If you show your nose for a hay fever, they might think it is just a cold and give you something completely different.

Hay fever is "le rhume des foins"
a cold is "un rhume".
head ache is "le mal de tête"
cocofromdijon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 01:26 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 19,683
French pharmacies are wonderful, not least because pharmacists there are allowed to diagnose and treat minor ailments. I love going in and saying that I have a cold and having someone go to various shelves and bring back suggested products--none of this help-yourself routine as here. Pharmacists in France can also fill prescriptions for drugs that you've left behind--some drugs, at least; mine was thyroid medication.

And lastly, French pharmacies are where people go with wild mushrooms to be sure that they are safe to eat--the pharmicists can tell.

Here's the article wrote on French pharmachies for the bonjourparis.com web site.


by Jean Underhill

When we arrived in Provence a few years ago I was happily unpacking things, deciding what to put where in our hotel room with the teak and tile bathroom. I picked up the container of pills, which I had carefully checked and rechecked before packing for the trip and discovered, to my horror, that one vital vial was missing: the essential thyroid medication.

At the Dallas airport we had stopped to purchase trip insurance, and the brochure gave a hot-line number to call if assistance should be needed. I called the number and waited for what seemed a long time, imagining someone, somewhere, in a neat little white office sitting at a telephone and handling one emergency call after another. Finally a woman with a British accent answered, but it turned out she was in Paris.

I explained my problem and asked whether a courier could be dispatched with the medication, one of the options in the insurance brochure. Certainly, replied the woman, but it would cost about $500. She suggested I see whether someone at home could send the pills. Good idea, I thought.

I called out cat and house sitter and explained what was needed. Jim quickly tracked down the medication and said he would send it the following day by some overnight service. Problem solved. We settled down to enjoy what was left of the beautiful Provençal evening.

When the telephone rang--early--the next morning, it was Jim on the line from California. He had taken the pills to our local parcel-dispatch service, only to discover that France didn't allow medications to be sent in from another country, as they had plenty of their own.

Okay. Next plan. I asked Jim to photocopy the pill container's label and fax it to us at the hotel. He did, and the picture arrived, looking only a little wavy. I again called the insurance hot line and was told that I would need to consult a local doctor, who could then authorize a new prescription to be filled at a French pharmacy. The agent suggested I ask our concierge for names.

The concierge was in fact the owner, and he was English. When he heard my tale of woe, he directed us to a medical clinic nearby that happened to be across from the local pharmacy. I thought I might as well stop there first and ask the pharmacist whether the medication I needed was available.

"Bien sûr, madame," was the response, "and we can simply fill the prescription as it is written on the bottle label. You do not need to see a médicin for this. In France we have the authority to replace forgotten medications in many instances." He looked very proud; obviously things were better in France than in the U. S. where pharmacists were concerned. I was amazed to learn that the price was about one quarter of what the pills would have cost at home.

That was the beginning of my love affair with French pharmacies. I soon learned that yes, pharmacists in France could indeed dispense some medications without the need for a doctor's visit and that they were skilled in giving advice as well. When I consulted a pharmacist about the problem of the classic traveler's stomach complaint he told me "Pas du chocolat. Pas du lait. Pas de tomate. Beaucoup de riz," and sent me on my way with some tablets. They worked very well.

On our last trip my husband caught a terrible respiratory virus; he had an extremely sore throat (we feared strep), a bad cough, and a fever. Off I went to the local pharmacy, explained the complaints, and came back with assorted tablets and capsules, expertly chosen by one of the staff. Sufferers are not left to hunt through the shelves on their own and guess at what might be needed, and pharmacists give detailed instructions that leave no doubt when and how the medications are to be taken.

All that and Roger et Gallet soaps too. I love French pharmacies.

Underhill is online now  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 01:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,412
You are all so helpful. I like the idea of putting a few of the things in one small bottle..which I can do because now I know I can always find things...and I laughed at the fact that they don't sell pepto bismol.

The only illness I had last time was a touch of food poisoning and I needed something for nausea. The only drug I didn't have with me was emetrol or pepto bismol. They gave my husband some things for me....they worked.

Thanks to all...
loisco is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 01:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,630
Thanks Underhill, I didn't think there was such a difference with the US pharmacies.
I think the British ones are efficient as well.

Pas de chocolat? ma pauvre!
cocofromdijon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 02:30 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 87,104
I believe all these things, or something comparable are available, but some of them I personally wouldn't want to have to go shopping for when you need them (Imodium comes to mind!).

For cosmetics I save samples of my regular brands and can easily take everything I need in a couple snack size ziplock bags (lipstick, blush, eye shadow, eye pencil, moisturizer, etc.).

So whether you want to go shopping in France or Italy, sounds like you could can definitely do a more compact packing job of the things from home you decide to take along.

BTW I skip vitamins when I travel, I've carried them too many times and never remember to take them.

Bring only a sample size of anything else (no need for that bulky bottle of 50 Advil, for example). Anything -except prescription drugs- I remove from their original containers and carry in tiny plastic zip bags or a sample size container that I can refill for the next trip. Watch for those at the checkout counter of drug stores or airport gift shops.
suze is online now  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,089
During my first trip to Paris in 1999, my DH really wanted to take a nice long bath. I volunteered to go accross the street to the pharmacy for some epsom salts. Well, I was too ignorant to realize that epsom is actually the mineral name and I could have simply asked for that. I spoke little to no French, the clerk spoke no English. I asked for sel pour bain - she sold me a small plastic bottle. As I left the store I realized, boy I just spent about $10 for bath salt! Until I took the time to decipher the label - I'd bought plant salt for "hypertension"! Hey, hubby dumped it in the tub anyway.
Margaretlb is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 171
French pharmacies are also great if you need to see a doctor, but it's not an emergency, since they can direct you to their offices, tell you their hours, and so on. On one trip my husband had an eye infection that wasn't responding to the medication our doctor had prescribed. The pharmacist looked at the bottle and said it was a strong drug and that if it wasn't working he should see a doctor. She then explained where the two eye specialists in the town were located and also suggested that although there was normally several months' wait to see them, one might make an exception. He did, and we went back to the pharmacy to fill the prescription. There was no dispensing fee, and the prescription cost all of €1.50!
MargrietVanderBanck is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 08:51 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 223
I learned about Pepto Bismol last year--I went into a pharmacy and asked for it and a very pleasant young lady told me: "I cannot geeve eet to you because eet does not eexsist"!! But she gave me something that resolved my problem.

I always bring every OTC thing I think i might need in the event of needing something late at night or on a weekend. I just don't want to spend the time finding an open pharmacy and shopping when I might not be feeling great.
arriba is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 08:55 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 1,099
I've had a few experiences in French pharmacies...and so far have concluded that OTC drugs like Advil, Excedrin & Immodium are The Big 3 that GO with me, so I don't have to explain or look for it when I get there.

I also found their cold medications to be woefully substandard...And I'm a big fan of most things French. I guess I just didn't find the right medicine to do the trick that time.

I'd throw most of it together or take the smallest packages I could, and if some Inspector asks (and they probably won't), you can always give them up and go commando after all.

Happy travels,

jules4je7 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 10:17 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 451
okay, now I am curious..what is it in Pepto Bismol that the french have deemed illegal, and why? And btw, the best place for OTC is mexico, bar none.
daisy58 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 7th, 2006, 10:50 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,121
I'm a bit foggy on the details now, but about thirty years ago there were some highly publicized cases in France of people who allegedly developed neurological problems (encephalopathies, IIRC) as a result of consuming bismuth-containing medicines (bismuth itself is a heavy and toxic metal). As a result, medicines containing bismuth compounds were banned temporarily—but the ban has been regularly renewed ever since (in part, rumor has it, because bismuth is also an important ingredient in some illicit drug manufacturing recipes). Since Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth salicylate, it is covered by the ban, and you can't find it in France. This is unfortunate, since Pepto-Bismol is one of the most effective diarrhea medications around.

If you don't have Pepto-Bismol, you can take Imossel (loperamide, same as Immodium) for acute diarrhea, Smecta (powered clay, same as unmedicated Kaopectate) for longer-term protection, and psyllium fiber (inert plant fiber) for even more long-term protection.

The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) is useful for warding off diarrhea or dealing with it, although, like fiber and Smecta, it can take a while to work.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:17 PM.