He will replace the outgoing Sir Andrew Witty in June 2013 and serve a two-year term.
Mr Viehbacher said he was “extremely honoured” by the designation which comes during the “midst of a crisis” in Europe.
The trade body’s new president has served as CEO of Sanofi since 2008 and also chairman of Genzyme since it was acquired by the French pharmaceutical company in 2011. He also served in a similar role as chair of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) between December 2010 and April 2012.
“There’s a virtuous economic cycle of investing in education and then research and innovation,” said Mr Viehbacher. “The challenge Europe is currently facing is about managing to reduce government deficits and debt without smothering the opportunity for growth; to make sure that relevant pro-growth, pro-innovation strategies can be activated.”
Richard Bergström, EFPIA’s Director General, said the new president is “well placed” to take over the leadership of the group. “At this time, it is important to remind ourselves and others what is needed to sustain research based pharmaceuticals in Europe,” he said. “Chris was involved in the high-level group G10 Medicines and has shown his ability to engage with policy-makers world-wide. I look forward to working with him.”