Parapharmacies, food supplements and vitamin cures: the total blur

Parapharmacies, food supplements and vitamin cures: the total blur

According to a recent report, of the top 20 Tunisian e-commerce sites, known as the Top 20 of e-commerce, the second site specializes in the sale of parapharmacy products and food supplements.

Another study on the parapharmacy and food supplement trade sector in Tunisia mentions that “the parapharmacy market concerns dermatological and cosmetic products such as skin care. Tunisian women do not use many products but choose them carefully”. Despite this, the drugstore market is a buoyant sector in Tunisia, a sector that escapes all control.

The same study adds that the sale of parapharmaceutical products is exploding on the Internet. Most are not subject to control and no one can vouch for whether these products do not contain active ingredients that are dangerous for the skin, for example. As a great opportunity to make a good deal, many people are investing in this sector.

With regard to the procedures for opening a parapharmacy in Tunisia, this sector is not governed by the articles of the Public Health Code relating to the opening of a dispensary (pharmacy) or the delivery of drugs. . To open a pharmacy, you must have the official title of pharmacist. Thus, anyone who wants to open a parapharmacy can practically do so.

The same is true in Algeria where, also, unlike medicines, the marketing of parapharmacy products and food supplements does not require a marketing authorization.

However in Tunisia, in 2017, by decision of the Central Pharmacy of Tunisia, nearly 15 parapharmacy products and food supplements were withdrawn from the market.

Pure and simple marketing

In general, parapharmaceutical products include cosmetic products (make-up, care, creams), common dietary products (food supplements, vitamins), as well as products and accessories dedicated to personal hygiene (shampoos, soaps, shower, intimate hygiene care).

Appearing in the early 1980s in supermarkets, parapharmacy products were an immediate success.

However, many voices are being raised today, at various levels, particularly in the ranks of doctors and specialists, in Europe, and under our skies, to warn against misinformation linked to this flourishing trade in parapharmacy products. and food supplements both in independent and specialized stores as well as in supermarkets and even in official pharmacies.

In a press report recently published in France on food supplements in particular (November 23), French doctors have minimized their effectiveness, including Corentin Lacroix, general practitioner, author of the Youtube channel WhyDoc, distinguished by the French Academy of Medicine for the pedagogy of its contents.

Speaking of food supplements, Corentin Lacroix says “that none has proven effective”. Moreover, on the official level, for the Ministry of Public Health “the substances constituting the food supplements do not exert a therapeutic action and are not intended to prevent or cure a disease”.

Corentin Lacroix is ​​particularly concerned about possible “cocktails” of food supplements ingested simultaneously: a first for the immune defences, a second for hair regrowth or the quality of the skin and a last supposed to promote sleep. “From a marketing point of view, it’s very well done”, he remarks, “But there is a real risk in taking too much and thinking that it will be good for your health. However, this is not necessarily the case”. He also minimizes the effect of royal jelly, propolis or pollen cures, attributing their reputation to simple marketing actions.

Resentment of pharmacists

Idem for the cures of vitamin A, C, or E, in particular to face the cold of the winter? It’s “useless,” says Boris Hansel, a French endocrinologist and nutritionist. “Vitamin C deficiency is totally prevented by food if we follow the recommendations,” he says. “Especially since we don’t store it. Overloading will have no effect. »

As for Tunisia and Europe, the market for these products in Algeria is also exploding, according to the media, which calls for its supervision in order to avoid abuse.

Aimed at slimming, anti-stress, revitalizing or intended for athletes, these products are often perceived as innocuous but can, in certain cases, expose the consumer to serious health risks. “It has become a social phenomenon, believes a pharmacist who affirms that food supplements have seen their growth rate accelerate with Covid-19.

In this context, a certain confusing vagueness between pharmacies and parapharmacies has also been observed, fueling the resentment of pharmacists in particular.

Some parapharmaceutical brands in Tunisia, reports the study cited above, indeed sell products that resemble products sold in ordinary pharmacies at competitive prices. However, some of these products may be expired, contain carcinogens or contain elements that cause discoloration of the skin. The president of the CNOTP (national council of the order of pharmacists in Tunisia) also underlined that these structures do not have any specifications which allows the regulation of their activities. The secretary general of the union of community pharmacists of Tunisia (SPOT) also pointed the finger at the practices of parapharmacies that imitate the emblem of pharmacies.


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