Action is needed in a number of key areas, ranging from the cost of carrying out clinical trial work in the UK to the continuing restrictions on patients' access to modern, innovative medicines, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has said in its formal evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee inquiry into the influence of the industry.
The evidence stresses that a positive partnership between the pharmaceutical industry and the UK health system is necessary and desirable - and must continue to work to the ultimate benefit of patients.
But action must be taken in a number of areas if the UK-based industry is to be able to maintain and develop its place in the forefront of global medicines discovery.
"The ABPI evidence provides a wide-ranging look at the industry's relationships with all parts of the NHS, and our recommendations have been drawn up with the best interests of patients and the health service at heart, as well as to the benefit of the industry, one of key importance to the UK economy," said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI.
"While there has been a long and fruitful partnership between the industry and the NHS and other stakeholders, no system is perfect. We therefore wish to work with the select committee to produce positive recommendations so that further improvements can be made to everyone's advantage - not least that of patients."
In detail, the main elements of the ABPI evidence are:
InnovationOver the past 10-15 years, the USA has opened up a commanding lead in pharmaceutical R&D investment. This trend will continue unless a more favourable investment environment is created in the UK, we secure the supply of suitably trained scientists, and attacks on the industry and its suppliers by animal rights extremists are halted.
Conduct of medical researchAlthough there are several clinical centres of excellence in the UK, it is also one of the most expensive places in the world to undertake clinical research. Government action is required to ensure that the cost and timelines for such research in the UK reduce.
The requirement to hold more paediatric clinical trials will increase following the introduction of a new European Regulation on Paediatric Medicines in 2006. The principle of incentives along the lines of those proposed in the draft legislation is therefore welcomed.
Provision of information about medicines and their promotionIt is important that the benefits which increased prescribing can bring to both patients and the NHS are emphasised to doctors alongside the steady feedback on the costs of prescribing. There should also be a much more determined effort to widen patient access to many newer medicines.
Professional and patient educationThere should be changes to allow pharmaceutical companies to communicate scientifically reliable information directly to its ultimate customers - patients. The industry would welcome the opportunity to explore this further with regulators, policy-makers and other stakeholders.
Regulatory review of medicine safety and efficacyThe industry believes that any future funding model of the MHRA must ensure that the agency can continue to operate as a European Centre of Excellence. However, proposals to review the financing of the MHRA would be welcomed if this would improve effectiveness, enable the retention and recruitment of high-quality staff who are sufficiently senior and experienced to chair key European scientific committees, and also dispel any perception of undue industry influence.
The ABPI launched a clinical trials register before the recent interest in the publication of trials data. We look forward to a dialogue on how this initiative can best be carried forward.
Product evaluationThe Department of Health, in conjunction with NICE, the Healthcare Commission, the NHS and industry, should work together to develop ways of overcoming NICE 'blight' in order to increase patients' access to new medicines.
Multiple technology appraisal processes have developed as a result of devolution. The DoH, Welsh Assembly Government and Health Department of the Scottish Executive should review these processes and devise a mechanism for sharing best practice.
"The ABPI looks forward to a robust dialogue with the committee at which we will have the needs of patients, the value of medicines as a lever for improving NHS productivity, and the importance of the industry for the UK as our governing thoughts," said DR Barker. "A far-sighted medicines strategy is integral to the future success of the NHS, and this can only be achieved in partnership."
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410