Sanofi to close northeast England plant

PARIS, March 15 Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:58pm EDT

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PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - French drugmaker Sanofi said on Thursday it plans to close a plant in northern England as it contends with European health spending cuts and growing competition from generic drugs.

The Fawdon plant near Newcastle, which makes drugs including top-selling blood-thinner Plavix for the British and European markets, is expected to close by 2015 with a loss of around 450 jobs, a company spokesman said.

Sanofi is reorganising some of its research and development and manufacturing operations as it prepares for the arrival of generic rivals to Plavix in May.

The company had disclosed plans in September to reduce its R&D headcount to 10,000 from 13,000 - excluding Genzyme, the maker of treatments for rare genetic disorders it bought last year.

Like its peers, Sanofi is facing a tough market in Europe, where governments have moved to curb the rising costs of healthcare in harsh economic times. Governments are by far the biggest buyers of medicines in Europe, giving them a big influence over prices.

Pharmaceutical industry executives have complained that excessive price pressure from governments threatens to inflict long-term damage to drug research in their countries for the sake of short-term budget cuts.

The chief executive of Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, said this week that Europe is undermining drug innovation by slashing prices, raising barriers to new medicines and "freeloading" off Asian and U.S. customers who are more willing to pay.

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