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French drugs market to shrink further in 2013: study

Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi, attends a news conference to present Sanofi 2011 annual results in Paris, February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit
Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi, attends a news conference to present Sanofi 2011 annual results in Paris, February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit

PARIS (Reuters) - Drug sales will shrink further in France this year as government austerity measures curb healthcare spending in Europe's second-biggest drugs market, a study said on Tuesday.

The study published by pharmaceutical intelligence firm IMS Health said the slowdown in France contrasts with slight increases seen in other mature markets, such as the United States, Japan and Germany, and with growth of over 10 percent expected in China and Brazil.

But it is less steep a decline than in austerity-hit southern Europe, while spending in France could be pushed up when new, innovative treatments which lack generic replacements reach the market from next year, the study said.

The market for drugs sold in French pharmacies is expected to drop by 3.4 percent this year, after sliding 2.3 percent in 2012 - its first yearly decline on record - as the government slashed healthcare spending through price cuts on branded drugs and favored prescriptions of cheaper generic drugs.

France is Europe's second-largest drug market after Germany and the pharmaceutical industry is the fourth-largest contributor to the country's trade balance, and one of the few sectors with a trade surplus.

Sanofi SA, the country's largest drugmaker, said in February the impact from government cutbacks on its earnings last year totaled 300 million euros ($388.7 million) and was expected to reach the same level in 2013.

The company warned that earnings could fall in 2013 as it continues to feel the effect of generic competition, but it expects to growth in subsequent years, driven by emerging markets, diabetes, vaccines, animal health, its takeover of biotechnology company Genzyme and new products.

($1 = 0.7717 euros)

(Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by David Holmes)

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