France herds patients, pharmacists toward cheap generics

France has jumped on the generics bandwagon. To preserve its comprehensive healthcare offerings, the government is making targeted cost cuts--and branded drugs are squarely in their sights.

The opportunity for savings is significant. As Bloomberg reports, the French are suspicious of copycat meds; they choose generic drugs 71% of the time. By comparison, the U.S. generics utilization rate was about 78% last year, according to the Government Accountability Office. In Germany, that rate approaches 96%.

France's goal is to boost generics use to 85%. New rules require patients to pay up front for a branded drug if a generic is available; they're reimbursed later, but they're out of pocket till then. Plus, the government is pressuring pharmacists who substitute generics less often.

Meanwhile, of course, France has been slashing prices on branded meds--and generics, too. The drug spending cuts will save €530 million ($697.8 million) next year, officials have said. Other measures--including campaigns for "more reasonable prescription practices" among doctors--put last year's total savings at €1 billion ($1.3 billion) last year, Bloomberg reports.

Of course, savings for the government means costs for drugmakers. At a time when countries across Europe are slashing at drug budgets, France's cutbacks have cost drugmakers €1 billion ($1.3 billion) so far, industry groups say. And that doesn't include this year's push for generics.

- read the Bloomberg story

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