Mélina Facchin // photo credit: Amaury Cornu / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP 06:12, June 07, 2023

Expired expiry dates, overdoses, self-medication: we are often not very careful when taking a medication. This is shown by a recent study by the ANSM. For example, nearly a third of French people adapt the duration or dose of the treatments prescribed to them.

You may have many boxes of medication lying around in a closet in your bathroom. Sometimes you don't even know what they're for, and some are outdated. You are not alone! The National Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) publishes this Wednesday a study on how the French consume their pills and drug syrups. And some of the figures are quite worrying.

"The expiration date was 2019, that's fine!"

As with many French people, the medicine cabinet of Thomas, a thirty-year-old from Strasbourg, is overflowing. "That, I guess, is syrup for the bronchi. Oh, Doliprane, I'll put it aside!" he said, rummaging through a packed box.

The young man has forgotten what some of his medication is for. The most common, he knows them: "This one, I know I can take it if I have a stomach ache," he explains. "But the expiration date was in 2019, that's fine!" he says with a smile. "I've always heard that taking a drug after the expiration date is not serious and that at the limit, it's just the effects that can be reduced."

One in three French people thinks like Thomas, according to the study by the National Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM). However, in addition to actually losing effectiveness, some expired medications, especially liquids (eye drops, syrups, etc.), can be contaminated with bacteria.

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"Harmful side effects" or even "addiction" for the patient

Thomas also admits, like three out of ten French people that he does not "always go to the end of his treatments", which is obviously not advisable. "When a doctor prescribes, for example, eight days of antibiotics, you have to do the treatment to the end to prevent the disease from coming back and we can no longer treat the person," says Lisa, a pharmacist opposite Strasbourg train station.

What worries him most is the overdose or mixing of drugs: one in five French people say they use it according to this study. "This leads to some side effects that can be harmful to the patient," says the pharmacist. "And if, for example, you take painkillers in too high doses, you can become resistant to the drug, or even addicted. We have a really high risk of dependence," she adds.

In the same way, the ANSM recalls that drugs are prescribed by a professional, on a case-by-case basis. However, one in two French people say they give medication to a loved one if they suffer from the same symptoms as him.