The House of Lords Committee on Science and Technology yesterday offered a stark warning that the UK risks missing out on the potential health and economic benefits that regenerative medicines have to offer. Its report should not be taken lightly.
By replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs, innovative regenerative techniques present enormous opportunities. They have the potential to treat and cure diseases where there is unmet need, not to mention improve the quality of people's lives and generate significant economic benefits for the UK1. However, the Committee warns that, whilst the UK already has a strong foundation in the area – including through experienced blood and transfusion services and access to a range of patients for clinical trials through the NHS – the UK risks missing out to countries like Japan and the USA if the right regulatory and commercial environments are not established.
Unfortunately, this is not a new message. The UK life sciences sector is facing stiff global competition for investment in R&D. Whilst the Government has stated it is committed to ensuring that the UK is the destination of choice for the R&D and launch of new treatments, the reality is that the sector faces a number of challenges. Poor access to clinical trials, uncertainty about future pricing schemes for innovative medicines, and inconsistent uptake of innovative medicines and techniques can all reduce the attractiveness of the UK as the premier destination for investment.
As the ABPI emphasised in its evidence to the Committee – and as the Committee recognised yesterday – a number of specific challenges face the regenerative medicines sector, which must be addressed if companies are to confidently invest in the UK, and if medicines are to reach from ‘bench to bedside’. In particular, regenerative medicines incur significant up-front investment, and may also deliver economic benefits through reduced healthcare needs and improved productivity. These outcomes must be adequately reflected by NICE if value based pricing is to apply to regenerative techniques from 2014, since the current model, as the Committee notes, is inappropriate2.
It is currently unclear whether a value based pricing system would apply to regenerative medicines. However, what is beyond doubt is that investors require clarity about the commercial environment in which they operate. The ABPI is currently undertaking confidential negotiations with the Department of Health about pricing schemes from 2014, but we are committed to representing the regenerative medicines sector to ensure that the right incentives are in place to support continue investment here. In the UK we have an opportunity to unlock significant benefits from innovative and exciting regenerative medicines. Let’s hope we don’t waste it.
Stephen WhiteheadABPI Chief Executive