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French government to save USD383 mil. over three years by boosting generic drugs uptake

Published: 25 March 2015

France's minister of health, Marisol Touraine, plans to boost generic prescriptions by five percentage points in the next three years in an attempt to secure EUR350 million (USD383 million) in savings.

IHS Life Sciences perspective



France's health minister has presented a plan to increase generic prescription by five percentage points.


The plan has the objective of saving EUR350 million (USD382.8 million) over the next three years.


The success of the plan will be significantly affected by the engagement of health professionals' associations.

France's health minister, Marisol Touraine, presented yesterday (24 March) a national plan to promote generic drugs by removing "the remaining obstacles to the use of generic drugs for all situations where such use is possible". The plan aims to boost prescriptions and use of generic drugs at the community, hospital, and long-term care level, while ensuring that health professionals are not limited in their freedom to prescribe.

INN prescribing on the table as government eyes savings

In particular, the plan presented by the government foresees increasing generic prescription by five percentage points in the three-year period 2015–17, according to reports from the medical newspaper Le Quotidien du Medecin. The plan is expected to garner savings of approximately EUR350 million (USD382.8 million). Furthermore, the increase in generic prescribing will be implemented through the implementation of incentives and disincentives, including the provision of additional payments to physicians and pharmacists linked to generic drug prescription and dispensation. Furthermore, a national advertising campaign targeted at the general public and health professionals will be launched at the end of 2015 to build confidence in generic, efficient, and quality drugs.

One of the main changes that may be introduced by the plan is a change in the prescribing rules for doctors that would require physicians to prescribe by international non-proprietary name (INN) instead of by brand name, according to reports from Furthermore, hospitals will also have to comply with a generic prescribing rate, as indicated by a decree published last week. The plan also includes interventions to monitor use of non-substitutable prescriptions as they force pharmacists to supply the originator drug as opposed to the generic version.

Stakeholders invited to sign a charter of adherence

The health minister said in a note that major players have been invited to sign a charter of adherence to national goals of promoting generic drugs to mark the engagement of different players in the plan. However, the French newspaper Les Echos reports that the plan has not been welcomed by the doctors' association CSMF, which is also concerned about the changes proposed to the Health Bill that are currently under review by the French parliament (see France: 18 March 2015: French parliament begins review of health bill).

Outlook and implications

The National Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) reported in June 2014 that generic drugs in France in 2013 represented 15.5% of the market in value terms and more than 30% in volume terms (see France: 25 June 2014: Pharmaceutical market shrinks in France as sales decline by 1.4% y/y in 2013). Although the trend shows an increase in the generic medicines uptake in the country, Minister Touraine has underlined that France is still lagging behind in terms of generic prescribing in relation to other countries.

A major interest of the French government in policies aimed at boosting the generic drug market does not come as a surprise following the approval of the Social Security Finance Bill (PLFSS) for 2015. The bill foresees generating savings of EUR1 billion in the pharmaceutical sector in France; approximately half of these savings are expected to be brought by the promotion and expansion of generic drugs (see France: 2 December 2014: France's parliament adopts 2015 social security budget and France: 1 October 2014: French government issues PLFSS for 2015, USD4-bil. savings planned for French health insurance).

Therefore, in order to implement the ambitious plan set out by the PLFSS 2015, the government has to significantly strengthen generic prescribing in the country. There is room for manoeuvre to boost the generic market and INN prescribing would significantly expand volume of generic drugs sold. It is important to consider that in order to implement the plan, the government needs to seek the approval of health professionals that need to be on board for smooth implementation of the new provision. However, reservations surrounding the plan have already been put forward by various doctors' associations. Furthermore, the discussion on the Health Bill in the French parliament may negatively impact the dialogue with doctors' associations that are concerned about the consequence of the extension of the third-party payor system to all insured patients.

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