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Supermarkets launch the sale of self-tests, to the chagrin of pharmacists

The self-tests are arriving on the shelves: the day after the publication of a decree authorizing their sale by mass distribution, they are already at the head of the gondola in certain supermarkets such as the Carrefour d’Auteuil, in the XVIth arrondissement of Paris.

In this hypermarket in the west of Paris, it’s hard to miss them: the Covid self-tests take pride of place at the entrance to the store alongside the masks and hydroalcoholic gel, under a red “Good plans” poster.

“I had the info this morning that two stores were going to receive a delivery and that we could go and get it,” hypermarket manager Mathilde Dénouël told AFP. At 4 p.m., some 200 boxes were on the shelves.

Since the publication on Tuesday in the Official Journal of a decree authorizing the sale of antigenic self-tests outside pharmacies until January 31, brands have rushed to be the first to offer them. At E.Leclerc, two out of three stores had to be supplied on Wednesday. At Intermarché and Netto, we promise it on Thursday, while Lidl estimates that orders should take ten days to arrive.

Around the head of the gondola, many customers stop. Some hesitate. “I was told it was not reliable enough,” says Daniela, a little lady of 60, before putting her two boxes down.

Others were impatiently awaiting the self-tests like Yves, who took four boxes: “I called twice today to be sure to find some”. This 62-year-old wealth manager is not vaccinated against Covid and says he tests himself daily. “Here it is cheaper than in pharmacies,” he continues.

– Competition with pharmacies –

Carrefour offers the box of five tests at 9.75 euros, or 1.95 euros per test, against 4 to 5 euros in pharmacies. Like most of its competitors, the brand ensures that it sells “at cost price”, without making a margin.

At the moment, the store limits the number of boxes to five per customer. “We want as many people as possible to be able to take advantage of it, we did the same thing at the start with the masks,” explains Mathilde Dénouël.

And as at the time of the arrival of masks in supermarkets in spring 2020, the question of supply is controversial: several organizations of pharmacists accuse supermarkets of having “looted” the stocks of their suppliers and of being out of pocket. the origin of breaks in pharmacies.

For its part, Carrefour ensures that half of its stocks come from its own supply chains abroad and the other half from wholesalers who have imported self-tests in France.

“The roles of pharmacies and supermarkets are complementary and only the interest of the French should count in a difficult health period,” defends the Federation of commerce and distribution, one of the main voices in the sector.

Pharmacists especially denounce the disappearance of their advisory role with this self-service sale. Several unions have signed a joint statement with the Order of Pharmacists which qualifies the government’s choice as “incomprehensible and risky for public health”. “Self-tests should not be confused with screening tests because they do not allow tracing and screening,” they reminded.

The government for its part justified its decision by the explosion in the demand for tests during the holidays and the significant circulation of the virus. “It is a derogation, but in no case should it contravene in the long term the question of the pharmaceutical monopoly for medical devices,” Minister of Health Olivier Véran assured the National Assembly on Wednesday.

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