ViewPoints: Sanofi CEO Viehbacher surveys battleground Europe as he assumes presidency of EFPIA

Europe looks set to remain a key battleground between the pharmaceutical industry and policy makers, according to Sanofi CEO Christopher Viehbacher, who suggested on Monday that manufacturers would look to invest elsewhere if European authorities continued to pursue their current policies towards drug prices and data disclosure.

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Viehbacher spoke to reporters shortly after being elected the new president of EFPIA – the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations – a position he is expected to hold for the next two years.

The previous incumbent – GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty – used the presidency as one means by which to broadcast the industry's aversion to sweeping price regulations in Europe; a theme that is almost certain to remain high on the agenda for Viehbacher, who is already a vocal proponent on such matters. See ViewPoints: Will Witty’s call to support innovation fall on deaf ears? and ViewPoints: Are pharma prices a soft target in Europe?

With regards to pricing, the European landscape shows little sign of becoming easier to negotiate for the pharma industry. For example, the UK's Department of Health (DoH) suggested proposals last week that some products (those not voluntarily submitted into the country's Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme) could be subject to price cuts of between 10 percent and 20 percent.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry was quick to point out that such products only account for around 10 percent of branded pharmaceuticals used in the UK. Nevertheless, the consultation announced by the DoH is "an aggressive opening shot in their push for a new scheme," Navin Sewak – from the pricing and market access consultancy Double Helix – told FirstWord. Sewak suggests that the gambit may also indicate that ongoing discussions about value-based pricing may not be proceeding as well as expected.

As industry has learnt in recent years, what happens in the UK has a profound impact not only on other countries within Europe, but also further afield. "Multinational players will be concerned at the Department of Health's actions given that there is evidence to suggest that up to 25 percent of world pharmaceutical sales reference UK prices to some extent," argues Sewak.

Pharma faces an additional headache in Europe with regards to the EMA's willingness to make drug trial data available, a policy that AbbVie and Intermune have temporarily derailed via the use of legal action (see ViewPoints: Court documents reveal biosimilar threat inherent to AbbVie's European data injunction bid). Another reason, cites Viehbacher, for future investment to be channelled away from Europe – particularly in light of the EMA’s moves on Monday to publish guidance on data disclosure.

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