Against the rules, Spasfon is not a placebo, it is an alternative

Against the rules, Spasfon is not a placebo, it is an alternative

Years of stomach pain are treated with a drug that tastes like candy: the famous Spasfon. Every month, it’s the same story of women who experience severe pain during their periods. In pharmacies, Spasfon seems to be the miracle solution given to all victims of the so-called “dysmenorrhea”, pain that occurs during menstruation.

It was enough to drop the term “Spasfon” from the top of Twitter trends on Thursday. Behind the hashtag, all opinions are united: this medicine – often presented as the only medicine – is actually useless. This is particularly the publication of an Internet user who launched the mutiny, who believes that the molecule is not effective against dysmenorrhea and should not be used as a pain reliever. The tweet was quickly relayed. “I have never seen such an ineffective medicine. Put it in the category: candy please”, launched a first. “A real woman knows that Spasfon does nothing when you have your period,” added a second.

Even worse, according to the web user “whistleblower”, Spasfon – beyond being useless – has a placebo effect, thus acting only in the psychological aspect. What exactly is this? 20 minutes pondering the question.


First of all, you should know that Spasfon is considered an antispasmodic. According to Vidal’s medical dictionary, the drug “counteracts abnormal and painful contractions of the intestines, bile ducts, urinary tract and uterus”. It can be used for gallstones, renal colic or painful periods. Except for this last case, its use is uncertain.

According to a report issued in 2008 by the High Authority for Health (HAS), Spasfon showed effectiveness in the disappearance of pelvic pain after three days of treatment. However, we can also read in this report: “There is no recommendation that recommends the use of antispasmodics during pelvic pain regardless of its origin (dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, IUD installation, etc.). These specialties should be considered as an adjunctive treatment”. The report also recommends therapeutic alternatives that are more specific to this pain, in particular analgesics of level I. It is better known by the name of Ibuprofen, but we will come back to it.

Some alternatives

Why is Spasfon seen as the holy grail of menstrual pain in all pharmacies? We went to ask Bruno Maleine, the director of the National Order of Pharmacists. “Available to the pharmacist, like that, over the counter, we don’t have many alternatives to offer a patient,” said the pharmacist. For lack of anything better, Spasfon remains an effective treatment “to answer a request of the current T to try to comfort the patient”.

This ranking “for lack of anything better” is also reflected in a previous survey published in 2017 in the magazine 60 million consumers. This shows that among the over-the-counter drugs [61 en tout], only a small minority are actually effective. Like twenty other products, Spasfon was previously classified as having “low or unproven efficacy, but with few or rare adverse effects”.

There is no placebo effect

The National Order of Pharmacists also wants to reassure: although Spasfon is an antispasmodic, it is possible to use it for all gynecological problems, “even for contractions in pregnant women”. “The most important thing is to know that it is not a health risk,” he added. On the other hand, the leader of pharmacists denied the idea according to which Spasfon has a placebo effect. “We cannot qualify because it is an antispasmodic that acts on the muscles”.

Bruno Maleine, however, ensures that he has a guiding role to play according to the pain experienced by women. “At the pharmacy counter, we also work to explain to the patient that there are many different sources of these menstrual pains and that there must be medical care, with effective and targeted treatments,” continued the president of National Order. of Pharmacists. Hormonal treatment or a progestogen pill can for example be discussed by the attending physician or gynecologist.

“You can also use steroidal anti-inflammatories, for example ibuprofen. But you still need to be careful, with all the precautions for the use that can be done,” warns our interlocutor. As for level II analgesics with codeine, it is already sold under medical prescription. “And there, we must pay attention to the risk of dependence”.

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