Are the purchase prices of some treatments too low?

What if part of the reason for the current shortage of medicines is that the price of medicines purchased from pharmaceutical companies in France is too low?

All countries in the world are victims of drug shortages, but perhaps more so than France. As global demand for medicines soars, pharmaceutical companies struggle to keep up and supply everyone’s needs, with some of these manufacturers clearly preferring to forego France and sell their medicines first to higher-bid countries.

Replay >> Drug Shortages: Do We Need to Pay More? Franceinfo TalkDebate

Jérôme Wirotius alerted our health authorities today. For the general manager of Biogaran Laboratories, which specializes in generic drugs, which is mainly produced and sold in France, it is no longer profitable to sell drugs to France. “Pediatric amoxicillin is 0.76 euros, says Jérôme Wirotius. So you have 0.76 euros of the drug, a glass vial, a cap, a straw, packaging and instructions.”

“Because of inflation and economic regulation, we find ourselves with negative margins on that product, and unfortunately it’s not the only product. We’re losing money.”

Jérôme Wirotius, General Manager of Biogaran Laboratories


According to him, the prices negotiated in France are too low for medicines, especially generics, the oldest molecules used for everyday diseases: paracetamol, antidiabetics, corticosteroids and even antibiotics. “Typically, prednisolone, a widely used corticosteroid, is four times more expensive in Italy than in France and six times more expensive in Germany”, explains the managing director of Biogaran Laboratories.

Medicines are cheap, others are expensive

In France, social security, the French contribution, covers most of the cost of medicines, around 30 billion euros a year. This year, 2023, as in previous years, the government hopes to save on this project: 900 million. At the heart of this machine is the Economic Council for Health Products (CEPS), which is made up of representatives from the government and social security sectors. He negotiates directly with pharmaceutical laboratories. It sets the launch price of new drugs and periodically cuts prices for older drugs. Philippe Bouyoux, president of CEPS, explained: “If you take the market for any product like a car or a TV, if you have new products that compete with existing products, they will exert downward pressure. We are doing the same thing. A product comes along that increases competition but doesn’t do much good, it will be cheaper and eventually the entire category may drop. ”

“A product arrives, new and innovative, which means it brings something, and we charge a higher price for it than what’s already in place. So it can be very expensive, even very, very expensive.”

CEPS Chairman Philippe Bouyoux


We’re talking about innovative medicines that save lives and cure hitherto incurable patients. But the drugs can be too expensive. “We are breaking records every year, regrets Gaëlle Krikorian, sociologist and expert in the economics of health products. Today, we can spend one, two or three million dollars per dose on the treatment of orphan diseases that affect a small number of people. On cancer drugs, we spend tens or hundreds of thousands of euros each. So that’s the scale we’re at.”

“It raises the question of why are we accepting this level of profit on a life-saving product? I think that’s a debate we should have.”

Gaëlle Krikorian, sociologist


The French principle is to work with manufacturers to lower the prices of older medicines to allow the other end of the chain to finance innovative treatments offered at very high prices. Be aware that CEPS has a reputation for being fierce in its negotiations with laboratories around the world. And with good reason: he can’t afford France’s “sunken social security”, and he has to keep the budget.

Prices of certain drugs to rise in coming months

For manufacturers, the system is no longer applicable to everyday medicines. They lose money. Thus the great French principle is reaching its limit. Therefore, the government has just agreed to make an exception, CEPS President Philippe Bouyoux explained: “In the face of this situation, we can respond by raising prices. We can agree that the government has just asked us to do so., targeted increase of certain strategic products , that is, essential products and products for which we may have vulnerabilities in supply.

Price increases for certain generic drugs will occur in the coming months. The government also assumes a commercial gesture on the prices of the medicines that will be produced in French laboratories. The idea is that by helping these labs maintain production here, we can also ensure the supply of strategic medicines in our country in the face of global shortages.

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