• Alison Clough

    Posted in category Opinion by Alison Clough on 21/03/2014

    The future for medicines when the commercial and R&D worlds merge

In the second of a series of blogs in the run up to the ABPI annual conference –‘Securing a future for innovative medicines’ – Alison Clough, Commercial Director of the ABPI, looks at how the commercial environment needs to work with the evolving research and development (R&D) ecosystem.


​Our annual conference in April is a timely opportunity to take a step back and review the commercial environment now, in the context of the changing R&D landscape, with the goal of securing a bright and innovative future for the medicines our industry makes and the patients that they help.

There’s a warning that you hear whilst standing on a train platform as the train approaches... “MIND THE GAP.” This phrase brings home the challenges we face as an industry.  One ‘gap’ we’ll be focusing on at our annual conference is the one that exists between the commercial landscape we currently operate in and the R&D environment we are moving to. In a blog this month, my colleague, Louise Leong, Director of Research and Development, talked about the shift towards a more focused and personalised approach to drug development – a shift from the blockbuster ‘one size fits all’ model to a more focused personalised approach that has been made possible by a combination of technological progress and scientific advancement.  We need to ensure that the commercial environment is geared up and ready to respond to this shift so that, in the future, we have a system that is fit for purpose and that supports and encourages the forward thinking R&D environment to flourish to help cement the UK as a leader in this field.

If we don’t address this gap, we will be faced with the widening of another – the gap in the usage of innovative medicines to improve health outcomes for patient.  This is a gap that has existed for a long time and sees patients routinely denied access to the innovative medicines they need because of barriers in the system, which need to be urgently addressed. We know that the way NICE currently assesses medicines could be further enhanced to ensure better access to the most beneficial medicines for NHS patients. The current process is denying too many patients the medicines they should be entitled to and is now inappropriate for many of the new medicines pharmaceutical companies are currently developing for patients in the future.

Integral to reducing this gap is the new pricing deal, which the ABPI negotiated with the Government earlier this year. Under the new voluntary deal, the pharmaceutical industry has agreed to keep NHS expenditure on branded medicines flat for two years, with industry underwriting any further expenditure by the NHS within agreed boundaries. This effectively takes affordability off the table and has the potential to revolutionise the UK commercial environment. The fact that 93% of the branded market is now covered by this voluntary scheme is proof that this it is the best deal we could have achieved in a very challenging environment. The ABPI is actively engaged and in discussion with the Government, to agree how industry’s contribution will flow back to the NHS so that it is used to ensure patients get access to more innovative medicines.

If we are going to secure a bright future for medicines then we can’t look at the R&D and commercial environments in isolation. Perhaps it is inevitable that the commercial world, along with the research and development environments, will come together as we move towards more collaboration, with a more pragmatic approach to clinical development of medicines and regulators/HTA bodies working closer together on the evaluation and appraisal of medicines.

This collaborative process will be evident at the ABPI annual conference, bringing together colleagues from both the commercial and R&D environment, both from industry and beyond. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the future for medicines and patients, and ultimately look at how we can address the gaps that exist to ensure ‘mind the gap’ warnings remain only on the train platform.

Register to attend the ABPI annual conference and dinner.

Alison Clough
ABPI Commercial Director

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