Brutal savings plan
The Lyon laboratory has come a long way. In 2019, in the midst of a controversy launched by doctors on the effectiveness of homeopathy, the former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn had recorded the end of the reimbursement of these treatments by Health Insurance from 2021. hard for Boiron, which controls nearly 90% of the French market, ahead of Rocal (subsidiary of Lehning) and Weleda, with its medicines presented in tubes of granules under their Latin name (Arsenicum album, Apis Mellifica and other Nux Vomica) and its specialty products well established in family medicine cabinets. In 2021, its turnover had fallen to 455.20 million, compared to 604 million in 2018. Its stock price has collapsed: from around 75 euros at the start of 2018, the stock is trading around 42 euros today, after a low around 30 euros in 2019…
Sales of products launched by Boiron since 2020 generated 77.6 million euros last year.
“We hardly dispense granules anymore, because doctors have stopped prescribing them,” confirms Pierre-Olivier Variot, pharmacist and president of the Uspo professional union. The star self-medication specialties, such as the anti-inflammatory Arnica, the anti-cold Oscillococcinum or the treatment of anxiety Sedative PC, have not been spared. “There was also the effect of the disappearance of winter diseases during the Covid epidemic, notes Aurélien Belluye, consulting director at Iqvia France, leader in the exploitation of health data. However, the respiratory tract segment [68 millions d’euros en 2022, ndlr], is the biggest on the market global specialty homeopathy [131 millions].”
Read alsoHow Boiron intends to survive the delisting of homeopathy
Yet it was the pandemic that partly saved Boiron. Because in parallel with a brutal savings plan (512 layoffs), the group has diversified its activity at a forced march, in particular in the screening tests for Covid-19 and the flu, which brought in 50 million euros per year. last year. “This strategy was already in the pipeline, but the reimbursement accelerated things”, nuances the manager of the laboratory with 2,769 employees (including 1,811 in France), who has maintained all of its offer. While its Swiss competitor Weleda has just stopped its pharmaceutical production in France, leaving behind 43% of its workforce, i.e. 127 employees.
Offer constantly renewed
With a net cash of 242 million stopped at the end of June, Boiron has the backs strong enough to put the package on innovation. In 2022, it obtained 223 marketing authorizations worldwide. Among its novelties, Varésol, treating the symptoms of chickenpox, or Bocéal, against sore throats. Winning bet: sales of products launched since 2020 generated 77.6 million last year, compared to 50 million in 2021.
“The group reacted quickly to the crisis, believes Jérôme Lieury, analyst at Olier Studies & Research. It constantly renews its offer and multiplies distribution agreements, recently in Switzerland or Italy, to develop internationally.” Present in 50 countries, Boiron is a hit in North America, where its turnover jumped 43.7% in 2022 (120.5 million). “Winter products drive our sales in the United States and Canada, where patients want more natural medicines,” says Valérie Lorentz-Poinsot. A North American salute that Boiron also owes to e-commerce, in particular to its listing on Amazon. To keep up with the pace of sales and supply its stock, it now has three warehouses in the United States.
The company has also found the martingale by venturing into probiotics, food supplements or cosmetics. In this sector, the group acquired the start-up Abbi in February 2022, which designs tailor-made creams using artificial intelligence. Amount of the operation: 1.75 million euros. For Jérôme Lieury, “the worst is certainly behind Boiron, because he has positioned himself in the right veins”. Next year, he must also participate in the French experimentation with therapeutic cannabis.
Boiron returns to the fight for the reimbursement of homeopathy
If homeopathic treatments remain supported by certain mutuals, Valérie Lorentz-Poinsot does not give up. “There is no reason that pregnant women, children or people with cancer, for whom homeopathy is an appropriate therapy to treat certain symptoms, cannot be treated like the others!” The director general of the Lyon laboratory appealed to the Minister of Health, François Braun, for the return of a reimbursement of homeopathy at 15% (compared to a rate of 30% before 2020). “We sent him a file with new real-life studies,” says the manager. Hope is very uncertain. “To date, in the absence of new and convincing scientific elements, the re-reimbursement of homeopathy is not the subject of discussions with the actors of the sector”, we answer from the side of the cabinet of the minister. And to add: “The government’s position on the place of homeopathic medicines in the basket of reimbursable goods remains unchanged, in accordance with the scientific recommendations of the High Authority for Health (HAS), which, in its opinion of June 26, 2019, indicated that the evidence is insufficient to justify support by the national solidarity of homeopathy.