Sanofi chief threatens R&D cutbacks unless EMA retreats on open data plan

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher is feeling under the gun in Europe, where regulators are planning to unlock drug data on top of their repeated demands for deep discounts on therapies. And he's pushing back, threatening to steer a bigger share of his R&D budget to the U.S. and emerging markets, where he doesn't feel so bullied.

Viehbacher recently took over as the new head of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. And he's using the bully pulpit to kick back at some unpopular moves, claiming the industry is getting increasingly fed up with regulatory obstacles.

"If you, on the other hand, say, 'you guys are bad actors, we want to cut your prices, we want to take your confidential data and share it with any one of your competitors', you don't get the same feeling of encouragement," he told reporters, according to a Reuters article.

Viehbacher added: "If I was to say where would I put the next euro of investment, I would say either the next euro of investment would go to the United States or to emerging markets."  

There's been a sharp debate among Big Pharma companies over the fate of its drug data. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has led the way, offering to make its data on approved drugs available to qualified researchers. And Roche ($RHHBY) has followed suit on that score as well. But plenty of companies, evidently Sanofi as well, are not at all happy with the European Medicines Agency's plans in Europe to publish raw data, handing it over to biosimilar projects. A European court recently stayed the move in an interim ruling.  

Viehbacher's threat may ring a little hollow in France, though. Viehbacher had lobbied hard to restructure its R&D operations in France, only to feel the full weight of senior government officials who lambasted the company's cutback plans. Sanofi eventually backed away from most of the reductions, but Sanofi's rivals in the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have engineered sweeping cutbacks in recent years. Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) have laid off thousands of researchers in Sandwich and other research hubs, with Merck KGaA following suit with the shutdown of its big Serono facility in Geneva.

- here's the Reuters story

Special Reports: Christopher Viehbacher - The 25 most influential people in biopharma today - 2012 | Sanofi - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma

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