France: Life Sciences Industry Major Contributor to Commercial Economy

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The French economy represents nearly one-third of the European market, with R&D investment in the life sciences sector coming second to only the automotive industry. While their life sciences sector represents just 40,000 jobs within the country, mostly in Ile de France and Rhône-Alpes, the sector maintains a priority for the French government due to the country’s internal demographics, the infrastructure they already have for the industry, and their continued export of life science goods.

There are over 1,000 companies specializing in medical technology invested in R&D and production within France. The majority of these, 94 percent, are SMEs, but France also is home to several multinationals, including Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, General Electric, and the French subsidiary of Abbott, among others. The life science industry is also a major contributor to France’s commercial economy, with significant exports from the sector.

Overall, France’s life sciences sector is a diversified one with the majority, 63 percent, of the sector working as manufacturers of medical devices for single use. 21 percent are manufacturers of medical equipment such as anesthesia and respiratory devices, electromechanical, and hospital equipment. 14 percent are manufacturers of in vitro diagnostic medical devices, and two percent are manufacturers of medical devices used for e-health.

Like many other industries relying heavily on manufacturing, France’s life science sector was impacted negatively by the 2009 global economic crisis, and 2014 continued to be another difficult year for the industry following shrinking sales in both 2012 and 2013. As France is looking to reduce their €6.2 billion deficit by targeting spending on pharmaceuticals (while drugs represent only 15 percent of total social security spending, they support 56 percent of the targeted deficit savings), sales are forecasted to rise only moderately from an estimated USD $47.4 billion in 2012 to USD $48.5 billion in 2017.

As France continues to have a growing aging population and long life expectancy (78.4 for men and 85.0 for women), consumption of pharmaceuticals are increasing substantially more than GDP. To restore the decline in attractiveness and competitiveness, France needs to work to address their social security and health insurance funding issues spurred by their longer-living and growing aging population as well as improve impediments to market access, especially for innovative drugs.