With recent data showing that life expectancy is stalling, it would be easy to be pessimistic about our chances. When we asked people about whether they’d like to live to 100 in a YouGov poll earlier this year, the results were split.
37 percent of respondents said yes, they would like to live to 100, 37 percent said no they wouldn’t, and 27 percent said they didn’t know.
But perhaps we asked the wrong question – I’m sure that if we promised that those 100 years would be healthy, we would have had different responses.
There are exciting new areas of science and innovation that could help people reach a healthy 100 years. Here are four ways the pharmaceutical industry is works with Government, academia, and the research based charitable sector to push forward the frontiers in life sciences.
The pharmaceutical industry is the UK's largest investor in research and development and it is thanks to this research that we’ve seen some hugely exciting advances in healthcare.
One example of an exciting new treatment area is immunotherapy. The very latest cancer treatment, known as “checkpoint inhibitors”, work by releasing the brakes that cancer puts on the body’s immune system – allowing people’s to fight back.
Recent clinical trials have shown significant, long-lasting results for patients with advanced forms of a range of cancers, including melanoma, kidney cancer, and lung cancer.
This investment in exciting new areas of scientific research, helps make sure people both survive and thrive through diseases like cancer that once would have been a death sentence.
We mustn’t be blinded by science and forget about the patient. To make sure patients can take full advantage of exciting new treatments that are appropriate for their condition, healthcare professionals have to have certain skills.
For example, the skills to identify that a particular patient will need a particular test, the skills to perform and interpret that test, the skills to select the right treatment and, most importantly, communication skills to explain why a particular treatment will or won’t work. and
Our UK life science industry is a major source of skills development for the the future and the pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is a major source of apprenticeships, undergraduate placements and PhD studentships. We are committed to continue to support learning and development for the next generation of life science professionals.
Tackling AMR is essential to help make sure people can live long and healthy lives. We all know that antibiotic resistant bugs are increasing, and it has been estimated that 10 million people a year could die as a result of these bugs by 2050.
Industry is helping to tackle this threat. First, by investing in research – to the tune of $2bn in 2016. Second, by raising public awareness through education in schools and with health care professionals to improve appropriate use and stewardship of antibiotics.
And third – by helping to develop new approaches to encourage sustainable financial investment in this area.
We must and will continue to play our part in the fight against AMR.
Vaccination has saved more lives and prevented more illness than any advance in recent medical history. The polio and MMR vaccines were voted one of the top ten most important medicines of the last 70 years in our recent study.
It has been estimated that the polio vaccine alone saved 10,000 lives between 1958 and 2018.
There are currently over 260 new vaccines in development, including vaccines to prevent cancers, allergies, and Alzheimer’s disease. The UK has a world leading vaccine programme – we are determined to help make sure this continues.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – industry must play its part to develop the vaccines of the future to make sure we prevent serious diseases from taking hold in the first place.
Of course, these four things are not going to make life expectancy a healthy 100 years on their own. There are very complex social and economic issues which also have to be addressed. But the life sciences industry can, and will, play their part in making a very positive difference to life expectancy. I aim to help it do so.