Drug shortage: Senate inquiry commission visits UPSA on Monday

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The deputy chairman of the Senate’s “Drug shortage” inquiry commission was in Upsa, at the Passage-d’Agen, on Monday.

Upsa is definitely “the place to be”, both day and night… After the night visit of the Minister of Industry Roland Lescure last January, the Upsa factory in Passage-d’Agen received Laurence Harribey on Monday 22 May , Senator from the Gironde and Vice-President of the Senate Medicines Shortage Investigation Committee.

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Laurence Harrisbey wanted to see how a production line actually works when 80% of the active ingredients come from outside. “In the hearings, explains the senator to contextualize her visit, we are told that the price of the drug is lower than its cost price, especially for mature drugs. Upsa has chosen to stay in France with a mastery of its sector and a mastery of quality as it works on social responsibility ”. At the heart of the proposals of the commission of inquiry will be the question of reinvestment in the reindustrialization of France to guarantee its sovereignty.

“Producing in France allows you to plan production”

Upsa inspires because the Lot-et-Garonne company has never been in a situation of shortage as it indicated during the hearing of the commission of inquiry on May 3rd. How could he do it? “We were able to review our production cycles very quickly,” replies Laure Lechertier. Upsa was also able to take a decisive step towards paediatrics by reallocating 1 million doses intended for export to the French market. And Upsa’s market access director recalls: “Producing in France allows you to plan production and adapt this production according to needs”.

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With 1,400 employees at the two sites, UPSA, the leading pharmaceutical site in France for the production of paracetamol-based medicines, produced 350 million boxes in 2022 to deal with a triple epidemic (bronchiolitis, Covid and flu). The tablet factory is still at a steady production rate with crews mobilized 24/7. It is getting ready for the fall and winter.

The question of the right price of the drug

UPSA says it expects today “a real policy of mature medicines with recognition of production at the local level”. Territorial footprint must be taken into consideration when determining the price of medicines.

“The whole question, summarizes the senator, is knowing what the right price of the drug is. In France we have moved towards a lower price concept to save money than the social protection system. At some point, this becomes a problem. On the other hand, these are mature drugs… Today, we must have a differentiated strategy according to drug sectors. If it makes no sense to produce mature medicines in Europe, we will have no guarantee of supply and no guarantee of quality and therefore we will be able to put a cross on our industrial apparatus. However, the lessons of the pandemic crises show that we must remain in control.

According to the senator, we are in a crucial period with, on the one hand, mature drugs reserved for mass production (and mass treatment) and, on the other hand, innovative and expensive drugs. “Public power, he says, finds itself between two contradictory injunctions: paying heavily for innovative drugs and at the same time not renouncing its sovereignty”. He calls for differentiated policies (between large multinationals and SMEs) and a different approach according to mature drugs and innovation. “And innovation is not automatically that of the drug. He is also involved in the production process, which is also interesting in UPSA”.

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