Pharmacies in Europe: all is not lost!

60134468 - old pharmacy sign in germany

A trip around the world gave Elise and Dean Apolloni a new perspective on the future of pharmacy

We are the typical holidaying pharmacists! Lucky enough to spend five weeks in Europe, we are travelling home and reflected on what we saw.

We are the kind of pharmacists that get to a country, and as soon as we work out where a pharmacy is we just can’t help ourselves!

We do the creepy window peek, or pretend not to take a photo of their latest health promo while doing just that, or act cool and hide our mortification as we walk through the aisles to come across a gondola end of silendafil in a souvenir shop in Mexico, or find to our surprise that salbutamol is prescription only in Germany.

But, after five weeks in 11 countries, unlike trips to the US, Pacific islands, Indonesia or Mexico—Europe was different.

There were no pharmacies in supermarkets that we came across. In fact, time and time again, we came across a cute little 100-200 sqm pharmacy, with a big neon green cross out the front, and a professional looking store.

Medicines displayed neatly, white coated staff ( in fact, on many occasions we think we saw only pharmacists working in there!). We saw some great health promotions, even from bigger pharmacies like Boots, but again, it was all professionally focused—and it made us proud to see our profession represented like this elsewhere in the world.

Not once, even in Boots, did we see a price-focussed chain. Not once did we see a predominance of gift (yes, Boots did have makeup, but the medicines area in the Boots we saw was easily visible). How refreshing a change from the pricing wars at home!

When sharing with our fellow tourists that we were pharmacists it was easy to chuckle! The next question was always “Are you a hospital or dispensing pharmacist?”.

We think we were classified as the dispensing variety, but then we had to explain that in Australia many pharmacists are trying not to dispense at all!

A weird concept to some of our fellow travelers but after going through how we love to talk to people and help and be easily accessible it made sense!

One fellow Australian traveller in her sixities, when listening to us explain all the wonderful services we offered asked if we had a pharmacy in her capital city (We sent her your way Pharmacy 777!).

So maybe all is not lost. European pharmacies from our observation look just like the professional health hubs many of us are or are striving to be.

Elise and Dean Apolloni are ACT community pharmacists.

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  1. Ronky

    I don’t know if European pharmacies are “the future of pharmacy” in Australia, but my overall impression was that it was like stepping back to how Australian pharmacy was 50 or even 100 years ago.
    A large number of quite small pharmacies (2 or 3 staff), seemingly too many for the local population to support and allow them all to make a profit, seemingly each owned and operated by a different individual owner (name always displayed prominently on the door), no aggressive discounting or price promotion (though some advertised dodgy alternative medicines), and none of them seemed to ever have more than 1 or 2 customers at a time. No chains or apparent buying groups, they are all marked with the generic and very prominent green cross.
    Only 1 or 2 brands of each formulation, no “home brands”.
    Despite the colder weather, a relatively small selection of cough/cold medicines.
    PSE products which would be S3 or S4 in Australia, displayed openly on shelves near the door, apparently this is not a problem.
    There are also “Parapharmacies” owned/staffed by a pharmacist with a lower qualification, which offer a lower level of professional service – e.g. apparently no S8s (and limited S4s?).
    A French lady told me the French consider the three “essentials” in the local neighbourhood which they visit almost every day are the café, the bakery and the pharmacy.

    • worried

      Pharmacies in Europe are paid a lot more by the government and therefore can survive on fewer prescriptions . Its too late for that here the government in NEVER going to increase funding to Pharmacy

  2. Mac

    Typical holidaying pharmacist? 5 week trip through Europe? Doesn’t sound typical to me…

    • Elise

      This is a holiday we saved up for very slowly after both working 3 years full time. So, pharmacists earning a holiday after A LOT of hard work sounds quite typical from the pharmacy community we work in!

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