Today, the NHS Confederation has raised the issue at an EU level, highlighting the need for a streamlined system to help secure the UK as a global hub for medical innovation.
For many years, the UK has been a leader in this field resulting in medications such as Aciclovir (Zovirax) and Sildenafil (Viagra) being launched in this country.
It is easy to understand why this is important to the pharmaceutical industry – but why should this matter to patients, to the NHS, to Government and wider society? Why should we care if new medicines are researched and developed here or in the USA, Japan or continental Europe?
The answer is: better healthcare for NHS patients, more highly-skilled jobs, and growth for the UK economy.
Research and development in the pharmaceutical business is high-risk. It costs about £1 billion and takes between 12 and 15 years on average to bring a new medicine to market. Out of 25,000 new compounds initially investigated, only five are likely to make it through the clinical trial process to market – i.e. to patients.
If research and development companies carry out the clinical trial process in the UK, they are more likely to launch the medicine in the UK. This means NHS patients have access to the medicine earlier – something which can make a huge difference to people’s lives, not just patients, but their families and their carers.
In addition, this sort of investment needs highly-skilled people. So investment equals jobs and potential growth not just for the pharmaceutical industry, but the wider economy.
The Government recognised this with its commitment in the Growth Review. It was an important first step. It is vital we maintain the momentum.
Dr Allison Jeynes-Ellis
Medical and Innovation Director, ABPI