Sanofi president hopes for volume-based procurement scheme adjustment



Sanofi China president Jean-Christophe Pointeau has given an interview with Bloomberg on the sidelines of this week’s China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai, during which he discussed the current market dynamics and outlined his hope that the Beijing government will reconsider plans for volume-based procurement.

As well as his position with Sanofi, Pointeau is the chairman of RDPAC, the R&D-based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) representing the interests of 41 multinationals in China. He described the recent positive impact of policies in China for the pharmaceutical sector, in particular on the pace of market approvals: “There is openness on innovation and we have seen very strong signals for the past two years, particularly in the acceleration of innovation [to market]”.  Reimbursement has also seen positive changes, with “15 oncology drugs newly reimbursed”.

However, Pointeau did call for greater focus on intellectual property protection, noting that despite some drawback on R&D investments by certain companies, China is a growing target for investment by multinational companies, including “American companies who didn’t have a very strong presence [who] are now investing massively in China”. He called for the government to follow through on earlier promises: “Now we hope the government will walk the talk and really give favor to innovation”.

Pointeau was also questioned on the recently implemented pilot scheme for volume-based procurement across 11 cities in China, which is set to guarantee a 60%-70% market share to the lowest bidder, designed to encourage the substitution of off-patent branded drugs by locally made generics. Pointeau underlined that the policy remains in a formative stage, and is something that RDPAC and multinationals are currently lobbying for the government to reconsider: “We don’t think it’s the right thing to do”. In his view, “giving a monopoly over one drug is not the solution. Why? Because it will lead to supply issues, and it will lead to quality issues, because everyone can produce cheaper but you shouldn’t have any tradeoff on quality”. Negotiations with the authorities to reconsider the scheme are ongoing, according to Pointeau, who stated: “We all agree that we need to work together on a solution on cost-containment in order to treat as many patients as we can”, but the real question is how to do this effectively.

Sanofi’s recent Q3 2018 financial report revealed that China sales stood at EUR 644 million (USD 731.75 million) during the quarter, with growth accelerating to 17.7% year-on-year (YOY) from 11% in Q2. The French firm’s performance was due in large part to a resurgence in vaccines sales following the recent scandal affecting domestic firm Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences.

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