Pascal Briere, president of the Biogaran laboratory (leader of generic drugs in France) and vice-president of Gemme in charge of economic affairs
“Widely used in the health crisis in recent months, generic drugs are often denigrated, even designated guilty of massive relocations. The Covid-19 epidemic has however perfectly demonstrated that they are an opportunity for our health system, both from a health and economic point of view. Thus, generic and biosimilar drugs, strategic assets to be preserved and developed, should not be the big ones forgotten by the recovery.
Accessible to patients, essential for our therapeutic arsenal in all pathologies, critical in the fight against supply tensions, these drugs have been essential allies in the face of the crisis. This allowed us to rediscover the tremendous societal added value of mature drugs. Curares, hypnotics, morphine, antibiotics, paracetamol, hydroxychloroquine… mostly discovered in the 1980s, these specialties were widely supplied by generic drug laboratories to hospitals.
These drugs are also highly job creators, as they are widely prescribed and used in general medicine and therefore generate large volumes of production. Investing today in the support and development of generic drugs therefore remains a rapidly winning bet. They supply a large network of manufacturing laboratories in France, often resulting from the restructuring of large pharmaceutical laboratories. Delpharm, Synerlab, H2Pharma, Fareva, unknown to the general public, alone employ thousands of people …
It is not inevitable that the mature medicine is manufactured outside the borders of the Union rather than in Europe. But to change the situation, it is urgent to give the sector room for maneuver in order to support the industrial fabric. While since 2014 the price cuts imposed on generics have reached more than 900 million euros, the market continues to stagnate while regulatory costs soar. It will thus be necessary to overcome the temptation to continue to make non-patent medicines, which already contribute in essence to budgetary savings, bear the cost of innovation and that of the crisis. This would be counterproductive given the very low price level already reached for these products. Does the general public know that a hypertensive or vascular protective treatment against cholesterol is paid only 10 cents per day by the community?
Biogaran, 90% of finished products from Europe, is ready to respond to the new issue of health sovereignty. Capital, this pushes the government to seek levers to restore competitiveness to the drug sector, relocate production and industrial capacities. A positive signal was recently given on this subject with the publication of the recovery plan, the cancellation of the price cuts planned for paracetamol and the announcement of several initiatives to support its production in France. But a set of measures does not make a policy. The government must take up the next discussion of budget texts in the fall to reorient the course of the economic policy of drugs.
In this sense, it would first be necessary to reduce the taxation of generic and bio-similar drugs, while the French taxation on drugs is one of the heaviest and most complex in Europe. It would also be necessary to allow oneself to revalue the prices of certain critical specialties on the basis of criteria linked to health independence or to the security of supplies. These measures are not intended to improve the margins of manufacturers, but really to allow the survival of the generic drug and thereby to perpetuate a source of substantial savings for the community.
Finally, the extraordinary global mobilization of public and private medical research in the vaccine race, and the tremendous hopes that it gives rise to, should not lead to the organization of exclusive public support for innovation, to the detriment of old treatments. While France has the best skills in chemistry and pharmaceutical formulation, public policies must also support mature strategic assets such as generic and bio-similar drugs. “