FRENCH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TO DEBATE HEALTH REFORM PACKAGE

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Debate has begun in France's National Assembly concerning a controversial new bill to cut expenditure in the social and health sectors. Under government plans, the EUR11.9bn (US$14.29bn) deficit -- which has mainly been caused by healthcare costs -- will be reduced to EUR8.9bn (US$10.69bn).

French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand has called for a "special effort from the pharmaceutical industry" with drugmakers expected to contribute EUR2.1bn (US$2.52bn) in savings. Measures will include an increase in tax on sales, which will rise to 1.9% from current levels of 0.6%. In addition, a 13% price-cut for branded products has been announced, which alone is expected to reduce state reimbursement spending by EUR450mn (US$541.52mn). The increased provision of generics is also being encouraged. Patients will be forced to play a part, with hospital charges rising from EUR14 (US$16.81) to EUR15 (US$18.01).

However, there are fears that wholesalers are shouldering an unfair share of the burden, as price reductions impact pharmacy profits. Pharmacists have bitterly opposed the austerities, which they say will cost them some EUR800mn (US$961.03mn), or 25% of turnover. They are especially concerned about the increased use of low-cost generic drugs and are urging a boycott of the products.