French market toughens up on drug prices, safety

French officials are getting tough. Budget strictures are forcing price cuts. Cost-effectiveness gatekeepers are tightening up reimbursement decisions. The ongoing push for regulatory reforms--in the wake of the Mediator scandal--have prompted new scrutiny on drug safety.

Indeed, the Mediator scandal can be blamed for some of the other strictures. As the Financial Times reports, drugmakers are feeling harassed by an angry public and put upon by the government. "The country is living through a more or less artificially created trauma," the country's trade association chief told the FT.

That's debatable; the foot-dragging on Mediator was very real, not to mention deadly for some patients. And since then, a series of breast-implant failures heightened criticism of French regulators. Some politicians see the new strictures as a necessary turnabout after years of easier reimbursements and higher prices. Some suggest that the environment was too industry-friendly. "I can't say there was corruption but there was connivance, which perverts the system," one told the FT.

But drugmakers say the turn was too sharp. Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher cites Multaq, his company's heart drug that faced new restrictions in other countries but lost reimbursement completely in France. "France is the only country that has stopped paying for Multaq. That deprives patients of a treatment option. Every time there's a safety issue, there is always a pendulum swing," he told the FT.

- here's the Financial Times story (reg. req.)