• Press Office

    Posted in category News Release by Press Office on 01/05/2009

    Health secretary praises the work of the UK pharmaceutical industry

Health secretary Alan Johnson has praised the work of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK in helping to prepare for the current outbreak of swine flu.


Delivering a keynote speech, Mr Johnson told the annual conference of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) that the industry’s contribution was invaluable.​

Mr Johnson said: “I really wanted to be here to express my thanks for everything the pharmaceutical industry is doing to help in this current outbreak. Right around the world the pharmaceutical industry is working to build up stocks of anti-virals and to find a vaccine for this virus.”

He added: “The pharmaceutical industry in the UK in particular is really well placed to help us deal with this problem. The other reason I wanted to come was to express my appreciation for the tremendous efforts of the ABPI on behalf of the UK pharmaceutical industry. The work we do together is never easy, but it’s important. It’s important for the NHS and also important to the UK’s standing as a world leader in scientific research.”

Separately, the conference heard that the ABPI is launching a nationwide conversation, designed to get the views of thousands of the industry’s stakeholders. Dozens of ambassadors, appointed from the ABPI and its member companies, will set up face-to-face meetings with a range of stakeholders.

The aim is to reach 8,000 different people, from patients to health professionals, politicians to press. Records of the conversations will be reported live on to a specially designed website so the whole industry has access to the views as they are revealed.

David Lewis, director of corporate affairs at the ABPI, said: “This is an enormous undertaking. We think it is probably the biggest stakeholder communications exercise of its kind in the UK. We want to have open and honest conversations about how people regard the industry so we can map and understand concerns where they exist and respond directly to them.”

Three other specific consultations were also announced at the conference - entitled: MEDICINES - championing successful UK healthcare – which was attended by more than 300 delegates. These will cover:

  • A review of promotional items provided by pharmaceutical companies to health professionals and their support staff, and whether they should be stopped
  • Support for health professionals to attend external conferences and company meetings (i.e. travel expenses and conference registration fees)
  • Whether financial support to patient organisations should be detailed in precise amounts and published in full on the websites of companies

All three areas are already strictly controlled under the ABPI’s Code of Practice, but the consultations will seek the views of members and other stakeholders on whether the rules should be tightened even further.

The conference heard that the ABPI will in future focus its work around four imperatives - Value, Innovation, Trust and Access – which form the acronym VITA, which is Latin for life. These imperatives will seek to better demonstrate the value that modern medicines bring; ensure the UK remains a major global innovation hub for research and development, as well as manufacturing; build trust; and speed up access to modern medicines.

David Fisher, Commercial Director of the ABPI, said: “Despite licence and even NICE approval, the UK tends to lag far behind its EU counterparts when it comes to actually prescribing new medicines to patients and this can cost lives.”

External speakers at the conference included: Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chief Executive of the MRC; Dr Mark Walport, director of The Wellcome Trust; Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet; Professor Dame Sally Davies; Director General of Research & Development, Department of Health and Professor Ken Paterson, Chair, Scottish Medicines Consortium

Industry speakers included: Chris Brinsmead, President of the ABPI; Dr Richard Barker, Director-General of the ABPI; Dr David Gillen, Head of Medical Teams for Primary Care, Europe, Australia, NZ and Canada, Pfizer; Dr Gordon Coutts, General Manager, Schering-Plough; Professor Patrick Vallance, Senior VP Drug Discovery, GSK; Subhanu Saxena, Country President, Novartis UK; Dr Tony Whitehead, Medical Director, Sanofi-Aventis and Richard Blackburn, Managing Director, Pfizer UK.


The conference took place at Old Billingsgate, London, on Wednesday April 29. A clip of Alan Johnson’s speech is available on YouTube.

For further information and images from the conference, please contact the ABPI press office: 020 7747 1410.

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