France takes concrete actions to ensure continued supply and good use of health products in the context of Covid-19

Jeanne Fabre

In the context of Covid-19, the French government took some immediate actions to ensure the supply and price limits of healthcare products (such as masks and hydro-alcoholic products) to healthcare professionals and health facilities in need and to ensure the good use of some medicinal products (see our previous blog post: “EU takes measures to regulate distribution of medical supplies in response to Covid-19“).

At first, only FFP2 face masks and anti-projection masks were requisitioned by the French Government (Decree n°2020-190 of 3 March 2020). This includes stocks held by companies manufacturing or distributing these masks as well as any public or private companies in possession of them. In parallel, the French Government took some measures to regulate the wholesale price to resellers and the retail prices of hydro-alcoholic gels until 31 May 2020 (Decree n°2020-197 of 5 March 2020) following extreme price surges (up to 300%) for these products. Some product’s specifications mentioned in the Decree have recently been clarified by corrigendum (Order of 13 March 2020).

A Decree n° 2020-247 of 13 March 2020 extended the requisition to other types of masks and in particular FFP2, FFP3, N95, N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99, R100 masks as well as anti-projection masks and this until May 31st 2020.

Further, an Order of 14 March 2020 gives pharmacies the ability to freely deliver such masks to the following healthcare professionals: general and specialist physicians, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, midwives, and pharmacists. An additional Order of 16 March 2020 extends this possibility to additional professionals such as service providers and equipment distributors, as well as social, educational and medico-social support services which intervene at home in favour of the elderly, children and disabled adults, as well as the home helpers employed directly by the beneficiaries.

Non-compliance with these measures may be sanctioned by 6 months of imprisonment and a EUR 10,000 fine for individuals (for non-compliance with the masks requisition provisions) or a fine of nearly EUR 1500 (for non-compliance with price limitations). These fines can be multiplied for legal entities.

In parallel, the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM) issued some recommendations reminding patients and healthcare professionals that in case of pain and/or fever, the use of paracetamol is to be preferred while respecting the rules of good use. The ANSM also warns not to prescribe, dispense or store medicines made of paracetamol unnecessarily. In order to guarantee the availability of paracetamol medicinal products, from 18 March 2020, pharmacists will be able to dispense without prescription only 1 box of paracetamol (500 mg or 1g) per patient without any symptoms, or 2 boxes (500 mg or 1g) in case of symptoms (pain and/or fever). Internet sales of paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin-based medicines are suspended.

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