“So Stephen, how exactly is industry responding to this perfect storm of industrial challenges?"


This is a question that I am often presented with and it is usually followed up with comments and/or figures around a combination of indicators such as declining R&D profitability, affordability concerns in health systems and increasing barriers that prevent access to innovative medicines. Indeed this was a strong theme that my global industry peers discussed and explored at the recent Economist Pharma Summit: Finding New Directions.

Whilst I agree that industry is operating against some strong head winds, I do fundamentally remain optimistic. My industry is one that is based on innovation (it is written in our DNA) and we are already seeing adaption and adjustment. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the greater partnership working and collaboration between industry and other interested parties. In the UK, this is happening both at the early stages of discovery (with greater externalisation of industry research with academia and medical research charities) and also in our interface with the NHS, with joint working programmes demonstrating that as an industry we have much more to add then just our medicines in isolation.

We are far from complacent; the very real challenges still need to be managed, and our upcoming annual conference will look at the central question: Can we afford innovation in medicines? My view is that we cannot afford not to innovate. 

Early signs of the next wave of innovations in industry pipelines are visible and should reaffirm our innovative credentials, with advances in areas such as Lupus, bowel cancer, hepatitis C and anti-coagulants. For me, rumours of the death of R&D have been greatly exaggerated.

A perfect storm? Perhaps … but one which the industry is equipped to deal with and determined to weather.

Stephen Whitehead

ABPI Chief Executive

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