Europe's generic drugmakers are in danger of falling behind the likes of India and South Korea if they do not receive more support from the continent's legislators.

This was one of the key points to come out of the annual conference of European Generic medicines Association (EGA) held in Lisbon. The trade body noted that with the global biosimilar and generic medicines markets set to expand significantly over the next 10 years, "it is imperative that Europe acts swiftly on the global stage".

Given this, the EGA is calling for the establishment of "an EU export Bolar provision to take advantage of this new situation". This would allow generics firms to develop and manufacture their copies of drugs which are still patent-protected, provided these products are intended for export.

The association also claims that countries such as India and South Korea have already established "task forces in order to promote strategies that would see them evolve into important hubs for medicines discovery". It warns that if "EU legislators do not act now, Europe will fall behind in its drive to deliver sustainable and high quality medicines to patients" and by acting quickly, "the EU will have the chance to create jobs and enhance its competitiveness".

Over the next decade, patent expiries in biopharmaceuticals would be the equivalent of 90 billion euros in sales, while the world generics market is set to grow 10%, reaching 92 billion euros in 2012. Given this, “the global expansion of these more affordable treatments is clearly of major importance to patients and healthcare systems" said EGA director-general Greg Perry.

However, he added that the EU "must take the opportunity to lead the world in the development and manufacturing of these products".