Pharmaceutical sales in France grew 2.7% to 26.9 billion euros last year, but retail sales of non-reimbursable drugs advanced 3.6%, according to new industry figures.

Retail pharmacy sales of prescription drugs rose 2.4% to 21.4 billion euros in 2009, with reimbursable medicines growing 2.2% to 19.5 billion euros and non-reimbursed products increasing 3.6% to 1.9 billion euros, according to new data published by the research-based industry group LEEM. In the hospital market, pharmaceutical turnover increased 4.1% to 5.5 billion euros, it adds.

Sales of generic drugs totalled 2.3 billion euros last year while those of off-patent medicine reached 1.6 billion euros, and together they accounted for 26% of the market for reimbursable products, says LEEM. Government efforts to boost the rate of generic prescribing have been successful, creating savings of around 1 billion euros last year, and it aims to increase the substitution rate to at least 80% for 2010,which will keep sales growth for reimbursable drugs to no more than 2% during both 2010 and 2011, the industry group forecasts.

Commenting on the report, analysts at IHS Global Insight note that new cost-saving deals agreed by pharmacists and general practitioners with the government will put further pressure on off-patent drugs this year, while the new 10%-20% reimbursement rate introduced this April has already translated into reimbursement cuts for around 170 products deemed to be of low therapeutic value, and more such decisions are expected from the transparency commission, HAS.

They also point out that Noel Renaudin, president of the national economic pricing committee, CEPS, has stated that the round of price cuts on patented drugs due this September should exceed 10% on average for angiotensin II receptor antagonists, erythropoietins, anti-TNF alpha antibodies and highly-dosed statins.

All these measures will contribute to keep growth modest for the reimbursable market over the next few years but, on the other hand, sales of non-reimbursable drugs are likely to expand, as more products are removed from the reimbursement list to allow continuation of funding for products whose high therapeutic value has been demonstrated, they add.

- Meantime, a new report from France’s health products safety agency, the AFSSAPS, reports that the retail pharmaceutical market in 2008 rose just 0.5% to 21.2 billion euros, compared to 8.6% growth to 5.3 billion euros for the hospital sector market, and that spending controls on generics led to an average drop of 11.5% in their ex-factory prices during the year.

Sales of non-reimbursed increased 12.2% in 2008, largely as a result of the removal of phlebotonics from the reimbursable list in January of that year; without this factor, sales of non-reimbursable drugs increased 4.2%, it says.