Understanding Prescription Dynamics in France: Branded vs. Generic Medication

The French healthcare system offers a unique framework for prescription drugs, impacting pharmaceutical companies, prescribers, and patients alike. As a pharmaceutical company looking to operate in France, it’s crucial to understand the dynamics between branded and generic medicines, patient preferences, and the implications of the ‘non substitutable’ rule. This understanding is key to developing effective market strategies and ensuring compliance with healthcare policies.

Branded Medicines vs. Generic Equivalents

In France, when a doctor prescribes a branded medicine, it indicates a preference for a specific product. However, the French healthcare system, primarily through the Sécurité Sociale, encourages the use of generic drugs as a cost-effective alternative. Here’s how it works:

  1. Prescription of Branded Medicines: When a branded medicine is prescribed, the Sécurité Sociale reimburses it according to its policies. The reimbursement rate depends on the medicine’s classification and necessity (Click here for more insights on Reimbursement)
  2. Encouragement of Generics: To control healthcare costs, the French government promotes the use of generic drugs. If a generic equivalent is available, pharmacists are encouraged to substitute the branded medicine with the generic version, unless the doctor specifies otherwise.

The ‘Non Substitutable’ Rule

French law allows doctors to indicate ‘non substitutable’ on a prescription under specific conditions. This directive means the pharmacist must dispense the exact branded drug prescribed by the doctor. These conditions typically relate to clinical reasons, such as patient allergies or specific health requirements. Pharmaceutical companies should be aware that:

  1. Impact on Prescribing Practices: The ‘non substitutable’ rule can influence prescribing practices, especially for drugs with specific formulations or for patients with particular health considerations.
  2. Market Opportunity for Branded Drugs: This rule provides an avenue for branded drugs to maintain market presence, particularly for those with distinct therapeutic benefits or formulations not replicated in generics.

Patient Preference and Refusal of Generics

Patients in France have the option to refuse generic substitutions proposed by the pharmacist. However, this choice has financial implications:

  1. Increased Patient Cost: If a patient refuses a generic substitution without a ‘non substitutable’ directive from the doctor, they may bear a higher out-of-pocket cost. The Sécurité Sociale’s reimbursement is based on the cost of the generic drug, not the branded equivalent.
  2. Pharmaceutical Companies’ Strategies: Understanding patient preferences and concerns about generics can inform marketing and educational campaigns for pharmaceutical companies, emphasizing the benefits or unique aspects of their branded drugs.

Pharmaceutical Companies’ Role

For pharmaceutical companies, navigating these aspects of the French healthcare system is critical:

  1. Educational Initiatives: Providing comprehensive information to healthcare providers and patients about the benefits and efficacy of branded drugs can influence prescribing habits and patient choices.
  2. Market Analysis: Understanding the patterns of ‘non substitutable’ prescriptions and patient preferences for generics versus branded drugs can inform market entry and expansion strategies.
  3. Regulatory Compliance: Staying informed about French healthcare policies and regulations is essential for ensuring compliance and optimizing reimbursement strategies.


The interplay between branded and generic medicines in France presents unique challenges and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. Understanding the nuances of prescription practices, patient preferences, and the ‘non substitutable’ rule is crucial for effectively navigating the French healthcare market. By aligning your strategies with these dynamics, your company can successfully engage with one of the most sophisticated healthcare systems in the world.

Interested in exploring opportunities in the French market? Contact us.