Pharmacies in Paris
Case 1. You're Not Feeling Well. Where Do You Buy Medicine?
Go to a Pharmacy - Unlike in the US where you can buy an aspirin and other over the counter (OTC) drugs virtually anywhere, in Paris common items such as Ibuprofen and saline solution are only sold in Pharmacies (not in supermarkets or at Monoprix).
How to Locate a Pharmacy in Paris
You can locate a Pharmacy by looking for the large, illuminated cross sign (green, red, or blinking). Pharmacies are licensed based on population density, so in Paris it is not uncommon to find multiple pharmacies on each city block.
How to Talk to a French Pharmacist
To buy any OTC drugs, you need to talk to the pharmacist. Most Parisian pharmacies employ at least one staff member with a rudimentary knowledge of English. If not, remember that effective pantomime transcends all language barriers.
Unlike in the US, French pharmacists are trained as a "first line of defense" before seeing a physician, and can diagnose and treat minor illnesses. Instead of asking for a specific medication, try describing your symptoms (e.g., migraine headache, upset stomach, cough). The pharmacist will sell you the appropriate treatment which may be more effective than you can receive OTC in the US, or give you information on how to contact a local doctor.
Know Generic Names for Your Medications
Also, note that many US brand name medications may not be recognized by French pharmacists. Try to note the generic name or ingredients for your common medications so an appropriate substitute can be found. For more information on French names for common medications like Sudafed or Tylenol and differences in what is considered an OTC drug, read our article "US to French Pharmacy Cheat Sheet".
Remember: If you're not feeling well, your first option is to talk to a pharmacist.
What do I do if the Pharmacy is closed?
Most pharmacies are open during normal business hours - from around 9:00AM to 6:00pm, Monday-Saturday, closed on Sundays. If your local pharmacy is closed, look for "Pharmacie de Garde" posted on the pharmacy door. Pharmacie de Garde is the name and address of the closest late night pharmacy.
If its really, really late or if you have trouble finding the Pharmacie de Garde, go to the Champs-Elysées and try the huge, "can't be missed" Publicis Drugstore (open daily from 8:00AM to 2:00AM) across from the Arche de Triomphe, or the 24 hour pharmacy, "Pharmacie des Champs" also on the Champs-Elysées.
The contact information for both is:
133 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8e
Tél : 33(0)1 44 43 79 00
Métro : Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, Georges V
Pharmacie des Champs
84 avenue des Champs-Elysées (passage des Champs), 8e
Tél : 33(0)1 45 62 02 41
Métro : Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
English-Language Pharmacies in Paris
For common ailments, you should have no problems at your local French pharmacy. If you're having trouble communicating with your pharmacist, there are a few Anglo-American pharmacies in Paris that cater to the American/British expat population. One located in a tourist area is:
6 rue de Castiglione, 1e
Tél : 33(0)1 42 60 72 96
Author: Cheryl Montgomery