France / pharmaceutical outsourcing: capturing new production and aiming at exports

Pharmaceutical outsourcing in France has strengths but will have to preserve existing productions, capture new ones and develop for export, according to a report prepared for the General Directorate of Enterprises (DGE) and presented Thursday.

The production for third parties of active ingredients used in pharmacies and medicines brings together in France more than 90 companies, SMEs or large groups like Sanofi and Servier, employing 17.000 people and achieving 3,6 billion euros of turnover, according to this study conducted by the firm Alcimed for the DGE.

The manufacture of medicines weighs 2 billion euros and concerns 35 companies and 12.000 jobs, while the production of active ingredients represents sales of 1,6 billion euros made by 57 companies employing 5.100 people.

"This is an area of ​​strategic importance for export" and on the other hand "guarantees security of supply" and "quality of manufacturing processes," said Bertrand Gallezot, deputy director general of companies .

The report makes ten recommendations, including the extension of the research tax credit (CIR) to all the pilot lots, the strengthening of the ANSM's expertise - the drug agency - and the setting up of "showcase offers". in the direction of the international and the amplification of programs of accompaniment to the export.

The situation is different for the two activities, but both have strengths and weaknesses.

The manufacture of active ingredients, competing with Asia since the 1980 years, has gone upmarket since the early 2010 years, and can rely on "recognized expertise," says the report.

But this activity must overcome weaknesses such as "reduced visibility", particularly on the production of biological drugs and a regulatory and normative environment "not conducive to productive investment".

On the 2025 horizon, however, the growth of biotechnologies and so-called "high activity" molecules constitute "strong opportunities" for France.

In the drug sector, companies operating in France have developed a capacity to adjust their production that differentiates them from their German or Italian competitors.

But the main weakness is the predominance of mature oral dry drugs, which face downward pressure on prices from competitors based in Eastern Europe.

"We must constantly seek to improve competitiveness," summarized Geraldine Börtlein, Associate Director at Alcimed.

But "if we too low prices, investments will suffer," warned Pascal Leguyader, director of industrial affairs of Leem, the union of the pharmaceutical industry.

"In terms of employment, we can not substitute all uses of the chemical drug with biological," said Sébastien Aguettant, president of the Delpharm group.