The head of the research based pharmaceutical industry, Stephen Whitehead, will today say to company leaders that the UK must prioritise patient access to life-saving medicines, and ensure proper funding for the development of new, innovative treatments, or run the risk of failing to meet the demands of tackling diseases in the future.


Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), acknowledged the importance of delivering real value to the NHS at all levels, but urged that a focus on cost reduction must not come at the expense of restricting access to and development of new medicines.

Commenting, Stephen Whitehead said: 

“While it is positive that medicine prices in the UK are currently low, and it is important that the NHS receives value for money, it isn’t such good news for patients if those savings are not continuously reinvested in new medicines. If we do not create the right environment for innovation in the UK, we will run the very real risk of failing to develop treatments which address the challenging disease burdens we face in the future.”

Highlighting the latest figures on medicines spending, it was shown that in the UK we receive good value for money and that there is scope for greater investment in new life saving treatments.  Stephen’s speech at the annual conference of the ABPI will come as figures confirmed this week show that medicines spending in the UK is slowing.  The ABPI figures which cover the period from 2010 to 2014, demonstrate how accurate industry forecasts have become at predicting medicines spending.

In his first speech as chief executive to the annual conference, Stephen Whitehead will explain that it costs on average £1.15bn and takes 12 to 15 years to bring a medicine to patients, but that industry was still providing medicines at fair and reasonable prices to the NHS.  However, with the latest research demonstrating medicine costs are under control, it is crucial money is reinvested back in to the system to develop new treatments.  He will say this will allow further improvements in patient health, save money in the long run for the NHS, and support industry as a driver of economic growth in the UK.

From 2009 to 2010 total UK NHS medicines spending was projected to grow from £12.6bn to £13.5bn when in reality it grew from £12.6bn to £13.2bn – a close prediction.  Crucially, they also revealed that medicines spending for newer innovative medicines is rising at a much slower rate than cheaper off patent medicines and that the NHS will save £3bn from 2010 to 2014 as pharmaceutical companies’ patents expire.

Stephen Whitehead said: 

“The figures demonstrate that medicines in the UK are still representing good value for money to the NHS and that the cost of medicines here compare well with our European counterparts.

“Generic medicines do save us money, but it is innovation that saves lives. We have to be careful not to focus on cost saving when we should be focusing on patients. The effective use of innovative new medicines can often reduce costs elsewhere in the healthcare system by reducing the need for expensive primary and secondary care. In fact, with diseases like Alzheimer’s placing an increasing burden on NHS resources, the development of new medicines by the pharmaceutical industry will be pivotal in not only fighting disease but ensuring the financial burden they impose doesn't cripple the healthcare system.

“The good value for money that the NHS gets from today’s medicines provides an opportunity for investment in new, innovative medicines and treatments.  It would spell bad news for patients if that opportunity was neglected.  The fact that spending on medicines is slowing will only be welcome news if the savings generated are available to invest in new medicines that will further improve patients’ quality of life and reduce costs elsewhere in the NHS. 

“To drive innovation in the future our pricing system needs to fairly reward the high risk, high cost process of making medicines, and ensure patients are actually able to access them once they have been approved for use.  If we can make genuine progress in both these areas – pricing and uptake of medicines – not only will patients benefit, the UK economy will reap the rewards of further, significant investment from the pharmaceutical industry."



Media enquiries

ABPI Press Office
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 1410 or +44 (0) 20 7747 1441
Mobile: +44 (0) 7808 641810 or +44 (0) 7850 312064

Notes to Editors

The ABPI represents innovative research-based biopharmaceutical companies, large, medium and small, leading an exciting new era of biosciences in the UK.

Our industry, a major contributor to the economy of the UK, brings life-saving and life-enhancing medicines to patients. Our members supply 90 per cent of all branded medicines used by the NHS, and are researching and developing over two-thirds of the current medicines pipeline, ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of helping patients prevent and overcome diseases.

The ABPI is recognised by government as the industry body negotiating on behalf of the branded pharmaceutical industry, for statutory consultation requirements including the pricing scheme for medicines in the UK.

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