• Stephen Whitehead

    Posted in category Opinion by Stephen Whitehead on 28/11/2013

    Improving patient access to medicines can ensure the pharmaceutical industry continues to invest in R&D

Improving patient access to medicines can ensure the pharmaceutical industry continues to invest more in R&D than any other sector in UK


​When the Heads of Agreement were announced earlier this month, the ABPI emphasised the complexities of the negotiations and stressed that the difficulty of this deal for industry should not be underestimated. Whilst the industry is ready to play its part to respond to the financial challenges facing the NHS, we argued that the Agreement must be accompanied by  positive action to ensure that patients can access new and innovative medicines across the NHS. If not, the 2014 PPRS could affect international perceptions about the UK as a location to invest in the Research&Development (R&D) and launch of new medicines.

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics this week show that, for the first time since 2009, R&D investment in the UK has fallen across all sectors.  R&D investment in the pharmaceutical industry decreased by 15% in the last year,  yet the figures also demonstrate that the industry continues to invest more in R&D than any other sector.  In 2012, the pharmaceutical industry invested £4.2bn in R&D, accounting for 25% of total expenditure on R&D and more than double the amount invested by the next largest sector (computer programming, which invested £1.9bn).  These figures highlight the strong and long-standing commitment that the pharmaceutical industry has to investing in the UK and ensuring that NHS patients have access to innovative new medicines. However they also allude to the growing challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.

A number of factors will inevitably drive investment decisions, but the commercial environment in the UK has an obvious impact on the country’s attractiveness for R&D investment. The pharmaceutical industry is significantly reliant on overseas private funding, with almost a third of all investment in the UK coming from overseas funds.  R&D decisions will be based on calculated considerations of return on investment, and, in the absence of the right incentives, these companies will be easily discouraged from investing in the UK, taking their investment elsewhere.  This will not only have an adverse affect on the UK economy, it will ultimately mean that patients may be unable to access new innovative treatments.

I have previously said that it is too early to predict the impact that the 2014 PPRS will have on future investment decisions for the industry. The focus must be on improving outcomes for patients and it is essential that both the Government and NHS take clear action to ensure that patients can access new medicines when they need them. This will send a strong signal to the pharmaceutical industry that the UK values innovation and innovative medicines.  Without such action, there is a risk that the downward trend in R&D investment will become a real crisis for the industry, the economy and ultimately, patients.

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