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French homeopathy giant to cut 600 jobs after govt refunds slashed

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Paris (AFP)

The world's largest producer of homeopathy treatments said Wednesday that it would cut 646 jobs in France, or around a fourth of its workforce in the country, after French authorities slashed reimbursements to patients for the alternative remedies.

Boiron Laboratories also said it would shutter 13 of its 31 sites in France, including one of three production labs, following a 13 percent drop in French sales last year.

The company had warned that jobs were at risk after the government cut the refunds paid by French social security from 30 percent to 15 percent starting this year, before they are eliminated completely in 2021.

The move came after France's National Authority for Health (HAS) concluded last June that there was no benefit to homeopathy, saying it had "not scientifically demonstrated sufficient effectiveness to justify a reimbursement."

Agnes Buzyn, the health minister at the time and herself a doctor, soon announced the phase-out of reimbursements that had once been on a par with standard drugs, at 65 percent.

Other European governments have also halted or curtailed their payouts to clients who opt for homeopathic treatments, which are based on the idea that a substance that causes certain symptoms can also help alleviate them.

"For the past two years, the virulent, unjustified and repeated attacks against homeopathy in France have weighed heavily on our company, which has seen its activity and economic results decline sharply," Boiron said in a statement.

"Our medicines are fully in line with the need expressed by millions of patients around the world for a more humane, respectful and sustainable medicine," it added.

It also said that restructurings of sales teams as well as production and distribution operations would allow the creation of 134 new positions, bringing the net job losses to 512.

The company employs 3,700 people worldwide, and said the job cuts would not affect positions outside France.

Overall, Boiron's sales fell 8 percent last year, to 557 million euros ($650 million).

"An 8 percent sales decline isn't major. The problem, besides ending reimbursements, is the image (for homeopathy), which is the hardest thing to manage," analysts at the French corporate research firm IDMidCaps said.

"The image has lost all credibility, which is also weighing on its operations," it said.

The French government's decision had prompted a similar debate over homeopathic treatments in Germany, where some 7,000 homeopathic doctors are registered and an additional 40,000 doctors have said they prescribe the remedies.

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