Drug spending in France slowed down during 2010, a trend that is going to continue with key patent expiries and a bigger push for generics.

An analysis from IHS Global Insight notes that the French pharmaceutical market actually grew 1.2% year-on-year to 27.5 billion euros during 2010. However this was driven by "a very healthy hospital market", where expenditures on drugs were up by 4.2%.

The report goes on to note that 2011–12 will see the patent expiry of France's top-selling reimbursed drugs, ie Pfizer's Tahor (atorvastatin), better known as Lipitor, and AstraZeneca's antiulcerant Inexium (esomeprazole). Respective savings of between 130-170 million euros are foreseen with the market entry of generic versions to the two drugs.

Anne-Charlotte Honore, an IHS analyst, pointed out that the generics market has progressed during 2010 in France, "unlocking savings of about 1.3 billion euros". The patent expiry of Sanofi's Plavix (clopidogrel) alone - now the best-selling generic in France - triggered savings of 200 million euros during 2010, and now one reimbursable medicine out of four sold in the outpatient sector is a generic.

The analysis shows that cost-containment measures adopted by the French government have been successful in containing drug spending, especially in the reimbursable drug market, which only grew 0.3% during 2010. During 2012, price cuts of about 670 million euros are planned while reimbursement cuts will concern a total of 64 drugs over the period.