France’s pharmaceutical sector is highly dependent on medicines from Asia but believes it is time to bring it back to Europe.
THE French pharmaceutical sector has revealed its weaknesses during Covid-19. France remains highly dependent on China and India as 80 per cent of medicines are manufactured in Asia. Entrepreneurs are now determined to bring France’s laboratories back to Europe.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, France’s pharmaceutical companies and political leaders are in agreement about the importance of repatriating production to France or Europe, especially those that manufacture medicines. With an ongoing shortage of protective equipment, health has become a question of national security.
From the French President Emmanuel Macron to the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, everyone is talking about economic sovereignty and promising that health will be a priority.
“This pandemic has made us aware of our degree of dependence on Asia,” explains Philippe Lamoureux, managing director of Leem, the organisation for pharmaceutical companies operating in France.
In 2018, the French pharmaceutical industry had a turnover of €56 billion, almost half of which were in exports. It employs around 100,000 people at 271 production sites. Out of 61 European marketing authorisations in 2019, only five drugs were produced in France.
France is home to one of the world’s giants in the sector: Sanofi. It is considered to be the eighth largest laboratory in the world in terms of turnover. And the multinational company does not miss an opportunity to show its patriotism. Eighteen of its 40 European plants are located in France.
“We produce in Europe for Europe, in Asia for Asia and in America for America,” says Philippe Luscan, Sanofi’s vice president in charge of Industrial Affairs. “For 30 years, I have been pleading for production sites to be linked to the territories. I have never believed in a France without factories or in an omnipotent China. The Covid crisis reinforces my convictions in the defence of a national industry.”