Paris to Pantin: A Homeopathic Field Trip

I was a touch tight on time, so I ordered my cappuccino to-go from the brasserie around the corner and headed straight for the train. I’m loving how they do a touch of chocolate on top of the foam here, by the way! Google Maps did a pretty good job of getting me started on my trip, but a slow internet connection coupled with a huge subway station led to a little panic and detour.

I arrived more than fashionably late at my destination: Boiron Laboratories – Pantin site. After passing through a secure gate, I was greeted warmly by a french-speaking woman who led me to Stijn for our meeting.

Stijn is a pharmacist at Boiron who, as I learned today, studied pharmacy in France and then desired to work in industry. He learned about homeopathy only upon joining Boiron in 2013. He explained some of the varying roles and responsibilities of the 130 pharmacists at Boiron in France – a big area is quality control.

We spent the first while sipping espresso (this trip is full of second-hand smoke and first-hand espresso, I tell ya!) while he showed me a PowerPoint-style presentation. It was really interesting to hear about Boiron’s collaborators around the world who help collect the raw material needed to prepare remedies. He explained their process of creating mother tinctures, diluting them, coating the pellets, succussing and packaging them. It’s quite a sight to see the equipment they use each step of the way to manufacture remedies on such a grand scale.

Next, we left the conference room and went to tour the actual facility at Pantin. Yes, my homeopathic heart was in her element!

First, we said hello to the folks in customer relations who receive calls from pharmacists and hospitals to place orders. There are two delivery times each day and if a provider orders a remedy on a given afternoon, they’ll have it by the morning for their patient. Pantin is one of a handful of Boiron distribution sites in France. Then, we moved on to the area where orders are filled. Different colored vials are used for different dilutions – blue and sometimes purple vials are commonplace in the United States, in my experience – this room was a rainbow!

The final area we entered was a Class D cleanroom so we put on shoe, hair and clothing covers. I didn’t snap pictures here, but I got to observe one of the workers prepare specialty orders (i.e. a provider seeking multiple remedies at various dilutions in one vial for one patient). She then did a demonstration of preparing liquid-based remedies in glass ampules which were sealed with a torch! Fun fact: they can also prepare powder-based remedies which may be preferred over pellets for children.

The tour wrapped up by lunchtime and we ended with a discussion of the current political state of homeopathy in France. Of the thousands of doctors in the country, 124 (yes, just 124) came forth and organized against homeopathy. I am not an expert on the details of this situation, but as it stands now, come 2021 there will no longer be insurance reimbursement for homeopathy in France. It’s really significant, according to Stijn. However, there is a great deal of mobilization and pushback:

Before I embarked on my journey back to Paris, I paused in a park with a fresh tomato and cheese quiche to reflect on what a cool morning that was.

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