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ABPI response to Committee inquiry into COVID-19 and international trade

The International Trade Committee has published its report and recommendations into COVID-19 and international trade. The ABPI's Chief Executive had given evidence to the Committee. 

Global supply chains have held up remarkably well during the pandemic, so we support the Committee’s conclusion that onshoring older medicines is not the way forward. Richard Torbett
We are extremely disappointed in the recommendation to consider compulsory licensing – the seizure of new research. This is unnecessary and would completely undermine the system for developing new medicines, including those for the coronavirus. Richard Torbett

The Committee found that UK supply chains in critical sectors - including medicines - have largely held up during the pandemic, despite spikes in demand, disruption to production and freight, and export bans in some countries.

It recommended that the Government works with the pharmaceutical industry to strengthen medicine supply chains for the future, with a focus on making sure stocks are replenished ahead of a potential second pandemic wave.

In response to the Committee's findings, ABPI Chief Executive Richard Torbett said: 

“During the pandemic pharmaceutical companies have been working around the clock researching and developing new treatments and vaccines for Covid-19, as well as making sure that medicines continue to reach the patients who need them. We are pleased that this work has been recognised by the Committee.

"Global supply chains have held up remarkably well during the pandemic, so we support the Committee’s conclusion that onshoring older medicines is not the way forward. To increase future resilience we need a system which combines UK manufacturing of some important medicines, with a diversity of global supply options and targeted stockpiling measures."

The Committee also said the Government should consider adjusting intellectual property (IP) provisions to allow for compulsory licensing of therapeutic drugs or vaccines against COVID-19, as a means of ensuring they can be made available as quickly, widely and cheaply as possible. In response, Richard Torbett said:

"We are extremely disappointed in the recommendation to consider compulsory licensing – the seizure of new research. This is unnecessary and would completely undermine the system for developing new medicines, including those for the coronavirus. It would send a hugely negative signal to scientists and would dent Britain’s ambition to become a science superpower."

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Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.