The Community pharmacy is the establishment whose role is to provide retail dispensing of drugs, products and objects whose preparation and sale are reserved for pharmacists, as well as the execution of magistral and officinal preparations.

In addition to drugs and products whose dispensation is solely the reserve of the dispensary, the latter may also sell various other goods, the list of which is prescribed by ministerial order.

In addition, the ”Hôpital Santé Patients Territoires” law of 21 July 2009 assigned various public health missions to community pharmacists.
The operation of a community pharmacy requires the granting of a licence issued by decision of the general manager of the regional health agency following an opinion by the representative of the State in the department, and from the Regional Council of the Chamber of pharmacists (or of the Central Council E, for overseas pharmacists) and from the representative pharmaceutical syndicates. The licence determines the location where the community pharmacy is operated, and it cannot be transferred independently of this.

The rules for transfer, regrouping and creation of a community pharmacy are determined by law (Articles L.5125-3 and following of the Code de la santé publique) in order to respond to the requirements of proximity and delivery of optimum service to the resident population. Population quotas are 2500 inhabitants for the first licence in the commune and 4500 inhabitants for subsequent licences. By derogation (Article L.5125-13  of the Code de la santé publique), the quota of 2500 inhabitants is 3500 for Alsace, Moselle and Guyane; for Mayotte, 7500 inhabitants per healthcare sector (Article L.5511-6  of the Code de la santé publique).

The pharmacist must be the owner of the community pharmacy of which they are the licensee. The pharmacist can only be the operator of a single community pharmacy as they are bound by an obligation of personal practice but may invest in the capital of two other private practice pharmacy companies.

In order to operate a community pharmacy, in addition to management in person, pharmacists are authorised to constitute between them a general partnership [société en nom collectif (SNC)] or a limited liability company [société à responsabilité limitée (SARL)]. A pharmacist may singly also create a single owner limited liability company [EURL] or opt for an individual enterprise with limited liability [entreprise individuelle à responsabilité limitée (EIRL)]. These structures can only own one community pharmacy.

Pharmacists may also create single or multiple individual private practice companies [sociétés d’exercice liberal (SEL)] .These companies are registered on the Register of the Chamber. Their manager(s) or chairman must be appointed from among the practising partners. They may, under certain conditions, include non-practising partners ore “investors”. A private practice company (SEL) can only operate a single community pharmacy but may own shares in the capital of two other private practice companies..

Pharmaceutical practice is regulated by the Code de la Santé publique both from an internal point of view (conditions of practice in the dispensary) and from an external point of view (external visibility of the dispensary).

The licensee is required to be assisted by one or more employed pharmacists when their turnover exceeds a certain level specified by ministerial order.
Pharmacy technicians (Article L.4241-1  of the Code de la santé publique) are solely authorised to assist the pharmacy owner and the employed pharmacists in the preparation and dispensing to the public of drugs intended for human and veterinary medicine. They assume their tasks under the responsibility of the actual control of a pharmacist. Their penal responsibility continues to be engaged.

By derogation from Article L.4241-1, pharmacy students duly enrolled on the third year of their studies in a pharmaceutical science training and research unit are authorised, for learning purposes, to carry out, outside university hours, the operations referred to in his Article subject their having previously completed the dispensing course provided by the current legal provisions (Article L.4241-10  of the Code de la santé publique).

Registration on the register of the Chamber

In order to work in their profession, all pharmacists must be registered on the register of the Chamber of Pharmacists.
When this takes place the Chamber ensures that the applicant pharmacist fulfils all the conditions laid down by law: the nature of their qualification, the conditions of nationality, competence and ethical standards, and, as appropriate, the holding of a dispensary operating licence, or attestation of special experience required for certain activities…
The list of documents to be supplied in support of an application for registration is determined by law.

Pharmaceutical studies

The reform of pharmaceutical studies came into force from the 2010-2011 academic year and now enables a common culture for healthcare studies through the merging of the first year of studies of the four health care professions: medicine, deontology, pharmacy and midwifery. This reform was also intended to support the re-training of unsuccessful students and the establishment of new entry and exit paths.

The first university year is divided into two semesters.

In the 1st semester, a common section covers:

  • basic sciences (biology, physics, chemistry, pharmacology, etc.)
  • medical sciences (anatomy, histology, embryology, physiology, etc.)
  • human and social sciences.

These disciplines will be supplemented by specific training for each of the disciplines in the 2nd semester.

At the end of the 1st semester, students sit the first part of the examination. At the end of the 2nd semester, the second part of the common examinations combines the common and the specific examinations.

A student can enter for several different disciplines so long as they have followed the corresponding specific courses.

Students who are redirected following the 1st or 2nd semester can subsequently re-enrol for first year subject to certain conditions.

Once the milestone of the first year has been completed, the pharmacy student must successfully complete 60 ECTS points (European credit transfer system) as well as the teaching units (UE) which can be chosen at will, in addition:

  • in the 2nd year, a dispensing course of 6 weeks and the AFGSU (Attestation de formation aux gestes et soins d’urgence [attestation of training in emergency response and treatment) level 1
  • in the 3rd year, a dispensing course of 2 weeks
  • in the 4th year, AFGSU level 2. At the end of the 1st semester the choice of discipline is made (dispensing, industry/research or internship/research). In addition, there is the option of sitting the internship examination
  • in the 5th year of hospital-university training, the hospital placement with a specific course for each discipline selected
  • in the 6th year: for dispensing, a professional course of 6 months and training in dispensing
  • for the manufacturing discipline, a professional course lasting 6 months and a specialist level 2 masters degree or research.

Studies conclude with the passing of the State degree of doctor of pharmacy (defending a practice thesis in the doctorate of pharmacy). Young graduates take the Galenic oath.

This course may be supplemented by one or more university degrees and/or doctoral studies with a doctoral thesis being defended after 3 years of research.

In respect of the pharmacy internship, this begins in the 6th year and includes 4 years of study in 3 disciplines:

  • pharmacy, with 2 options: hospital pharmacy – practice and research or industrial and biomedical pharmacy
  • pharmaceutical innovation research
  • medical biology, with 2 options: specialist or multi-disciplinary medical biology.

It should however be noted that each university retains its own autonomy for the structuring of studies, and it is therefore necessary to contact the 24 individual faculties of pharmacy to obtain further information.

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