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PARIS, March 29 (Reuters) - France's drugs market is set to shrink in 2012 for the first time, hit by government austerity measures to curb healthcare spending, according to a study published by pharmaceutical intelligence firm IMS Health.
The slowdown in France contrasts with moderate growth expected in other European countries and North America, and double-digit growth in emerging countries.
IMS predicted the French market would decline between 1 and 2 percent by 2015, compared with growth ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent in Europe and North America, and between 2 and 5 percent in Japan.
Emerging markets should post much faster growth of between 13 and 16 percent, the study said.
"After two years of zero growth, the French market (for drugs sold in pharmacies) will enter a recession reflecting the government's decisions over price cuts and de-reimbursements," said Robert Chu, head of IMS Health France.
France outlined in November a new austerity package calling for a further 700 million euros of savings on health spending in 2012 with savings coming in part from additional price cuts on branded drugs and generics.
The country's drug industry also faces a special tax on sales of 1.6 percent in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and is grappling with the loss of ageing blockbusters to generic competition.
Sanofi, France's largest drugmaker, has warned its earnings this year could shrink by up to 15 percent as top-selling drugs previously protected by patents are hit by competition from cheap copies.
Sanofi expects to return to growth in subsequent years, driven by emerging markets, diabetes, vaccines, animal health, its takeover of biotechnology company Genzyme and new products.
Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Mark Potter