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Pros and cons of using drugs in France

Prescription drugs the “French” way:

As you can see from this picture the pharmacist has HANDWRITTEN the dosage instructions on each box. Inside each of these boxes is a paper listing all the warnings and possible side effects and is provided by the drug manufacturer. Simple, to say the least.

While living in America it kinda went like this:

Verbal warning- Each time that I picked up a prescription from the pharmacist, I first, had to listen to the pharmacist verbally explain if there were any side effects or warnings and what they were. Afterwards, I initialed on a paper that yes, indeed, I had been given the verbal warning, so to speak.

First written warning- I was handed a bag containing my prescription with about twenty papers stapled to it. On these twenty papers from the pharmacy all the warnings and possible side effects for the medication were printed out for me in great detail. I assume most Americans just chuck them without a second glace. However, I read them just to be safe.

Second and Final written warning- After I had finally managed to pry off all three staples securing the twenty papers to a tiny bag, I could finally pull out my drugs. Upon holding my plastic child proof container filled with my drugs, I find my final warning! A sticker label is placed around the pill container with only the very most serious warnings and very most serious possible side effects printed clearly on it. The name of myself and my doctor are always printed on the label as well as the expiration date of the medication.

Yes, I will agree that the American way is a little overcautious. However, most of us are not doctors and in this case overcautious is best.

How the French could improve? By using the printed labels stating at least the name of the patient and the instructions for taking the medication . Notice, I said printed not handwritten! I have a hard time reading the French handwriting. Rather than writing something so serious as how to take prescriptive medication, the pharmacist scribbles out the instructions very quickly. So, now do I not only have to translate French into English but French scribbling into English! The numbers are especially difficult for me to figure out. Not only are the numbers 1, 6, 9 not written the same in French as in English, all the numbers take on a whole other appearance when scribbled! Not a safe way to go in my opinion.

Also, the name thingy is very important when you consider that my husband picked up both our prescriptions at the same time. The scribbled instructions were scribbled on the outside of the box like always. However, the pharmacist did not write our names on the outside of the boxes. Instead of taking this simple precaution, the pharmacist simply puts my husbands drugs in one bag and mine in another. It is then up to my husband who can not remember an important conversation we had yesterday to remember which bag is his. Sure the pharmacy gave him back a copy of the original prescription order written by the doctor and of course it is in the same “back to kindergarten” handwriting that American docs are famous for. The handwriting course must be taught the same in French and American medical schools. Docs write more in code than in any real language. So, it is left up to my husband to be sure he knows which bag is really his and which bag is really mine. I ask my husband how it is that he knows for sure that the bag he handed me is mine and not his. He tells me, “Of course, that one is yours!” Of course, it is! And, that is why four days later I am still sporting the evil eye of pain! My sinus infection is now so painful I can barely think at times! I wish I were kidding.
Tomorrow I am off to the doc again to beg for more drugs!

America may be better on the prescription bottle label thingy, but let me tell you this!
We paid 4 euro total for the doctor visit. Two euro for myself and two euro for my husband. The cost of my three prescriptions and my husbands two were totalled under 1 euro.
In America, I paid over two hundred dollars per month for our family health coverage. When we went to the doctor the co-payment was an additional twenty dollars and the prescriptions were always at least five dollars each. Keep in mind I had three children, two of which were under thirteen months, going to the doctor. The two littlest members of our family were costing us at least forty to fifty dollars a month in additional health care costs due to shots alone. My birth control pills were twenty bucks a month in America with insurance. After we moved to France and I got my birth control pills for the first time I had to stop outside the pharmacy and laugh! I giggled out in disbelief, “You are kidding me? That is all it cost!” I could not believe it! The pills were around 60 cents. In America, when I had Sweet Bear and Petite Clown the hospital stay was covered by my insurance with ohhhh only a two hundred dollar co-payment. When I had Boy Blue at the public hospital in Strasbourg we paid not one cent.

So, it is true that the French system is not perfect. But it goes without saying, I prefer the French medical system as a whole over the American medical system any day of the week.

Think about it.

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