Country Reports : France: The French Pharma Revolution - Pharmaceutical Executive


Country Reports : France: The French Pharma Revolution

Pharmaceutical Executive

Mind magnifying effects

Philippe Chêne, President of Baxter
France is also well known for its deterrent political and social environment. "We have the reputation for being a strictly regulated country where social tensions are frequent. That image, I am afraid, is too caricatured. Multinational companies settled in France are much less critical of the situation than foreign observers. Mind magnifying effects," replies Lamoureux, a strict advocate of the need for the sector to go through a re-industrialization phase.

Krisja Vermeylen, Vice President France & BeLux - Novo Nordisk
Philipe Chêne of Baxter France also believes that the image of a problematic country is often overplayed. "The country has an image of labor complications, poor productivity and complex tax systems. In reality, the productivity level of our subsidiary versus the rest of the world is one of the highest in the organization. Moreover, while the tax system may be complex, it's highly attractive for research, which is why I have worked with my finance director to draft a position paper to communicate the opportunities of France to our external colleagues."

Laurent de Narbonne, General Manager for Octopharm France, Belgium & Luxemburg
"France is a centralized country, so you have to consider the impact of this structure on healthcare authorities. It helps to take the time to understand how it works and to empathize with the position of key stakeholders at the governmental level. Rather than complain about each decision that is made, work with authorities to find a compromise," advises Chêne. Baxter has been present in France for nearly 40 years where it distributes both drugs and medical devices.

Unquestionable potential

While many are feeling the heat of a changing environment in France, with growth figures down, headcount downsizing, and facility closures or sell off, Novo Nordisk is thriving. In 2009, with an 8% increase in revenue, France was a driving force for the group's European growth, which only reached 4%. In the past five years, Novo Nordisk doubled its French headcount and invested €200 million ($240 million) to increase capacity in its Chartres insulin production facility near Paris.

While Novo Nordisk's main production facility remains in Denmark, Krisja Vermeylen highlights that Chartres is one of the group's top three facilities alongside Brazil and China. "France may have the 35-hour law, but it does not hamper the quality of work here and our results prove it," she says. "Moreover, our site operates a high level of productivity and the quality is highly recognized, which is why we were able to attract extra investment to France."

2010 should be another good year for NovoNordisk's French affiliate with the launch of the "first human GLP1 analogue to the market with Victoza." The product is already on the market today in several countries such as the UK, Ireland, Germany and Denmark "where the feedback from patients has truly been amazing," says Vermeylen.

Interestingly, the diagnosis rate for diabetes in France is above average, with 85% of the population aware of their disease compared to Europe's 60%. "This is likely linked to the obligation of French employees to visit the doctor annually", surmises Vermeylen, another reason to not forget France.

She won't be contradicted by Laurent de Narbonne, general manager for Octapharm France, Belgium and Luxemburg. Over the past 5 years, French sales doubled to reach €40 million ($44 million). France and Octapharm have a long common history as the independent Swiss based global plasma fractioning company was originally founded in France by Wolfgang Marguerre, the company's chairman.

Octapharm manufactures and markets high tech plasma derived products on the French market, but only 5% to 10% of the production from its Alsace biotech facility (on the border with Germany) is directed to the French market.

Located close to the Strasbourg University, famous for its chemistry department, and the Alsace biocluster, the Lingolsheim plant is one of France's 10 biological production sites. Seeing that the French market is not self-sufficient for certain type of plasma (IVIG, Albumin or fibrogen notably), Octapharm is increasing the level of its investment there. It has already injected over €100 million ($120 million) over the past 10 years (including acquisitions). "The French market's potential is unquestionable!" concludes de Narbonne.


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