INTERVIEW – To repatriate the production of drugs to France, the State must put in the means to also bring back research, according to Hichem Jouaber, associate director, specialist in the pharmaceutical industry, at the consulting firm Alix Partners.
An electric shock. The Covid-19 epidemic has violently put on the table the sensitive issue of France’s dependence in its supply of drugs and vaccines. Admittedly, the debate on drug shortages is recurrent, as stock-outs have been frequent for several years. An action plan was even launched by Edouard Philippe and the former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn in September 2019. “The coronavirus accelerated the debates because it made concrete the catastrophic scenario of a possible shortage of drugs currents ”, observes Hichem Jouaber, associate director, specialist in the pharmaceutical industry, at the consulting firm Alix Partners. If the public authorities and the industry itself are now talking about relocating pharmaceutical production, this repatriation could prove to be more complicated and costly than it seems. “We must be vigilant, because it is not just a question of the cost of production, but also of the cost of research”, declared during a debate in the Senate, on May 27, the Secretary of State. at the Ministry of the Economy, Agnès Pannier-Runacher. Explanations.
Challenges – What lessons can be learned from the pandemic for the pharmaceutical industry?
Hichem Jouaber – The crisis has accentuated a problem that we have known for several years: the dependence of France and Europe vis-à-vis China, especially, and India for their supply of drugs and vaccines. When the epidemic put a stop to production in China, as well as to global transport, the threat of a shortage of active ingredients – 75-80% manufactured in Chinese and Indian factories – called “de commodities ”, that is, used in the most common drugs like amoxicillin, penicillin and paracetamol, has become real. As with masks or hydroalcoholic gel, the crisis has made it clear that building up strategic stocks does not solve the basic problem. Especially when these stocks