However you look at it
Of course, not everyone is entirely happy with the French system's strict regulations, longer processes for getting market
access, and other administrative hurdles. "If you examine the market access process, there are more hurdles to get your drug
approved, so it clearly eats away your protection period." complains Mohamed Chaoui, general manager of UCB France.
Olivier Daubry, General Manager of Celgene France
"France has improved from the past, but I believe more can be done. Moreover discussion would be easier and quicker if we
were to obtain a price that is commensurate with the amount of R&D investment." he says.
Nevertheless, having lost most of its initial patents at an earlier stage but looking forward to the launch of three new products
(Vimpat for epilepsy, Neupro for Parkinson's, Cimia for rheumatoid arthritis), Chaoui acknowledges: "France's advantage–however
you look at it- is that it is one of the world's biggest markets."
Mohamed Chaoui, General Manager of UCB France
Even when compared with emerging star countries, France seems to retain its status as a priority market for players. "If you
consider the prices that regions like Brazil or China will be willing to pay... French health expenditures per capita will
remain more attractive for quite some time. Therefore, even if worse ranked in the future, this country will play an important
role in the global pharma market," reckons Eric Fatalot, president and CEO of Chiesi France.
Mike Seeley, Senior VP Europe for BMS
"When you look at the entire health market one of the main drivers is the elderly population and if we look at the population
of France in the coming 20 years it is no exception to the rule in Europe: percentage wise the population is getting older.
It needs to be taken into account especially when you consider one of our up-and-coming therapeutic areas like chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD) which is prominent in elderly populations," he concludes.
The importance of France is even more critical for an international giant like BMS. In 2008, BristolMyersSquibb's Plavix,
then the largest molecule on the French market, went generic. It represented €600 million ($720 million) of revenues that
dropped by 60% within ten weeks. Despite a number of new product launches in the pipe, Mike Seeley, senior VP for Europe at
BMS, knows that 2010 should still be a year of contraction. He is, however, confident that growth shall return in 2011 and
that France "should also remain the largest affiliate outside the United States."
Replacing blockbusters by new products is high on Seeley's agenda, but there is another challenging process he has had to
supervise. "Our vision for manufacturing in France involves adapting to our future reality as a global, next generation biopharma
company. BMS took the next step to focus all of our research on ten disease areas where we believe there is a serious unmet
medical need. Of course, this reorientation impacts our industrial structure and we are adapting it to a portfolio that represents
the company's future."
As a result, BMS is closing down two sites in France. But this is by no means the end of BMS's industrial story in France.
Actually close to 50% of the BMS' global volumes output still comes out of its Agen factory, in South-Western France. "This
is where the UPSA business is located...There is a center of excellence for pain products like paracetamol and effervescent,
so we made the decision to develop this asset for France and as an important export business," explains Seeley.
When asked about the complexity of working in France, Seeley first jokes, "the first thing is to speak French," but on a more
serious note adds, "I have had regional roles for a long part of my career. In the time that I have been here I have found
that French culture can be very demanding, specifically because getting to a decision is not the linear Anglo-Saxon way. You
need to learn to let a discussion process work its way through. My experience has been that you will start with one issue
and end with ten before getting to a solution for the original problem. However, the good part of this is that you have dug
deep on a number of tangents to the issue which develop into a more robust final solution."