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 ache treated with a medicine that tastes like candy: the famous Spasfon. Every month, it’s the same story for women who experience severe pain during their period. In the pharmacy, Spasfon seems to be the miraculous solution granted to all victims of what is called “dysmenorrhea”, pain that occurs during menstrual cycles.

Enough to put the term “Spasfon” at the top of Twitter trends last Thursday. Behind the hashtag, all opinions are unanimous: this drug – often referred to as the only remedy – would in fact be useless. It is in particular the publication of an Internet user that launched the mutiny, believing that the molecule is not effective against dysmenorrhea and should not be used as a pain reliever. The tweet is broadcast quickly. “I have never seen such an ineffective drug. Put it in the category: candy please ”, launches a first. “The real woman knows that Spasfon does nothing when you have your period,” she adds a second.

Worse still, according to the web user “whistleblower”, the Spasfon – beyond its uselessness – would have a placebo effect, thus acting only on the psychological aspect. What is it really? 20 minutes pondered the question.


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

According to a report published in 2008 by the High Authority for Health (HAS), Spasfon shows efficacy in the disappearance of pelvic pain after three days of treatment. However, we can also read in this report: “No recommendation recommends the use of antispasmodics during pelvic pain whatever its etiology (dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, installation of an IUD, etc.). These specialties should be considered an additional treatment ”. The report also suggests more specific therapeutic alternatives for this pain, particularly level I pain relievers. These are better known as ibuprofen, but we’ll come back to that.

Few alternatives

So why is Spasfon considered the Holy Grail of menstrual pain in all pharmacies? We went to ask Bruno Maleine, the director of the National Order of Pharmacists. “At the pharmacist’s disposal, so, at the counter, we don’t even have many alternatives to offer a patient,” says the pharmacist. In the absence of anything better, Spasfon remains the effective treatment “to respond to a request of the moment T to try to give relief to the patient”.

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

No placebo effect

The National Order of Pharmacists also wants to be reassuring: even if Spasfon is an antispasmodic, it is entirely 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 dangerous to health,” he adds. The leader of the pharmacists, however, denies the idea that Spasfon has a placebo effect. “We cannot qualify it as such as it is an antispasmodic that acts on the muscles.”

Bruno Maleine, on the other hand, assures that he has a leading role to play based on the pain experienced by women. “At the pharmacy counter, it is also our task to explain to the patient that there are many different origins for these menstrual pains and that there must be medical treatments, that there are effective and targeted treatments”, says the president of the National Order of Pharmacists. . Hormone treatment or a progestogen pill could, for example, be discussed with the attending physician or gynecologist.

“You can also use steroid anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen. But we must still be careful, with all the precautions of use that it could have ”, warns our interlocutor. As for level II analgesics containing codeine, they are now sold by prescription. “And there you have to pay attention to the risk of addiction”.

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