Exports of medicines have reached a new record of more than £10 billion last year, figures released by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today show. And the NHS is making greater use of medicines under new guidelines introduced by the Government to fight major killers such as heart disease.
The figures also show that pharmaceutical research and development in the UK has risen to £3,172 million – another new record – amounting to nearly £9 million every day. At the same time, medicines prices have increased at half the rate of inflation over the past five years.
The figures appear in the new edition of the ABPI’s Annual Review, published today. They show that - while in a globally competitive world, the industry has to keep demonstrating that the UK is an attractive place to invest - steps have been taken to put in place the right structure to enable the industry to flourish.
“This is an incredibly successful industry which is an enormous contributor to the health of both the people of Britain and the Exchequer,” said Dr John Patterson, ABPI President.
“But there is still more to be done if we are to provide best health outcomes on a par with our European neighbours. Figures prove that Britain remains one of the slowest countries in Europe to take advantage of the benefits of modern medicines.”
The provisional figures show that exports of pharmaceuticals for 2002 rose to a new record of just over £10 billion, compared with £9.1 billion last year. But with imports also rising to just over £7.4 billion, from £6.4 billion in 2001, the trade balance in medicines dropped slightly – from £2.7 billion to £2.6 billion.
“ While these are figures of which any industry would be proud, we could have earned yet more for Britain but for the effect of parallel imports, which significantly reduces our very positive balance of trade while providing virtually no benefit to patients, the NHS or the country,” said Dr Patterson.
“This EU-derived problem is undermining the industry’s success. Last year, parallel imports accounted for one in every six medicines in primary care and, if this seemingly inexorable rise continues, it will seriously threaten future investment decisions in this country.” The ABPI’s figures also show that more NHS medicines were prescribed in 2002 than in previous years. An estimated 707 million items were dispensed, compared with 677 million the previous year, raising the average annual number of prescription items per person from 11.3 in 2001 to 11.7 last year.
This increase is largely accounted for by Government initiatives, especially National Service Frameworks, designed to improve the treatment of heart disease and mental illness. But despite the rise, medicines remain well under 13 per cent of NHS costs.
And the UK is still at the lower end of the league table as far as annual sales of medicines per person goes. They totalled £137 in 2001 – under a third that of the USA (£437) and well under half that of Japan (£292). It was also considerably less than most other European countries, including France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Austria.
Indeed, the figures show the average person in Britain spends only 38p per day on medicines, compared with £1.20 on alcohol and tobacco combined, and 48p on television. Modern medicines offer real value for money – in real terms, NHS medicines prices are 12.5 per cent lower than a decade ago. In addition, the average prescription costs around £10, while a single day in hospital costs around £200.
“Modern medicines offer one of the most cost-effective methods of treating ill health,” said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI. “It is thus good news for both patients and the NHS that there have been rises in prescribing in carefully selected, appropriate areas that are saving and improving thousands of lives every year.”
The ABPI’s Annual Review also looks at key aspects of the ABPI’s work on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry during 2002.
In particular, it highlights the achievements arising out of the UK Government/industry Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force, particularly in areas such as clinical research, licensing, intellectual property rights, commercial issues and the UK science base.
As a leading member of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries, the ABPI has been playing a significant role in shaping European pharmaceutical legislation that could have major consequences for patients and the public information available to them.
“Patients have the right to information about their medicines, and the pharmaceutical industry is uniquely placed to be able to provide the best, most consistent and ethically sound information – after all, it takes up to 12 years to develop a single new medicine, and companies gain a huge amount of expertise over that time,” said Dr Jones.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410