Traditionally medicines in France were unrestricted but there is a new push to actively limit the range of medicines that are eligible for reimbursement through the Government healthcare service. Not just are some medicines not eligible for reimbursement but the rate of refund has also been reduced.
The basic rule is that drugs with patent protection eg “branded medicines” are in scope for non-reimbursement or reduced reimbursement if there is a generic copy of the drug available.
The official line is that either the drugs are not effective or there are similar generic products on the market that are cheaper.
Foreigners in France are often surprised to find that doctors in France do not prescribe antibiotics as freely as elsewhere. In the UK and US for instance, a visit to the doctor with a sore throat or cold invariably results in a prescription for antibiotics – not so in France, you may have to shop around to find a doctor willing to give you a prescription.
The rate of reimbursement currently ranges from 100% for medication recognized as irreplaceable and expensive down to 15% for drugs which are considered to be of low medical value. The doctor or pharmacist will have details of reimbursement to which you are entitled. If you have voluntary (“top-up”) insurance check with your insurer what rate of reimbursement you will receive under the level of cover you have chosen.