June 28, 2019 / 4:27 PM / 22 days ago

French health watchdog recommends ending reimbursement for homeopathic drugs

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s health watchdog on Friday recommended that social security stop reimbursing patients for homeopathic drugs, citing insufficient effectiveness.

For nine months the HAS watchdog investigated the effects of the alternative medicine on 24 medical conditions, including anxiety, foot warts and acute breathing infections and said it did not find sufficient scientific evidence to justify continued state reimbursement of homeopathic drugs.

Health minister Agnes Buzyn will now make a decision based on the recommendation. She has said in the past she would abide by HAS’ recommendation on homeopathy, an alternative medicine that treats patients with highly diluted substances.

Shares of French pharmaceutical lab Boiron, one of the world’s leading homeopathic drug makers, were suspended from trading in May and again earlier this week after details of the HAS recommendation were disclosed by French media.

The end of reimbursement in France would be a blow for the firm, which depends on the French market for about 60% of its 605 million euros annual revenues. Boiron employs about 3,600 people, most of them in France, where it makes all of its products.

The company has criticized the HAS process. “This recommendation was issued in a record time and doesn’t take into account homeopathy’s specificity,” Boiron said on Friday in a statement.

The company’s shares are down 22% so far this year.

About 600 Boiron employees, doctors and patients dressed in white demonstrated in front of the town hall of Lyon, close to Boiron’s headquarters.

“Production will be directly impacted by falling sales triggered by the end of reimbursement,” said Cynthia Velin, 21, “We are all worried.”

Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Simon Garraud and Catherine Lagrange; Writing Inti Landauro; Editing by Geert De Clercq and Toby Chopra

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