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The ABPI is looking to lead productive change, instead of just responding to the global pressures
Dr Richard Barker, director general of the ABPI We all work in an industry that is reinventing itself. Let's pause for a moment and consider these recent actions on the part of major pharmaceutical companies and whether anyone would have predicted them five years ago:

• Exiting manufacturing and spinning out technical operations into new ownership
• Sharing the costs and benefits of pipeline product development
• Asking universities to develop their products
• Combining whole therapy area businesses
• Launching bio-similars businesses to compete with other research-based cousins
• Acquiring generics and OTC operations in developing country markets
• Embedding researchers in academic units rather than starting up their own research efforts in a new area
• Creating European business units to replace national operating units
• Replacing national, brand-based salesforces with regional account management.

At one point it seemed as if most of the majors were converging on the same end point – fully integrated 'pure play' research-based global businesses in four or five major therapy areas – with emerging companies aiming to emulate them through venture capital funding leading to late-stage pipeline products, and IPOs to raise the funds to complete development.

Now, however, we have a wide variety of strategies playing out across the industry and no clear end point for convergence.

It is not just internal reinvention. In addition, we are:
• Redesigning the process of development and regulation in recognition of the fact that the current spiral of costs and time cannot go on
• Remaking our relationship with the health service, from being largely prescriber-focused to engaging with all the decision makers
• Calling for reform of how our products are evaluated so that genuine clinical and cost-effective innovation is encouraged, not stifled
• Reshaping our contract with society to replace the old image of a beleaguered, unpopular industry with renewed pride and partnership
• Re-forging our deal with the government through the new Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme and the Office for Life Sciences to make the UK a natural home for innovation once again.  

For anyone who thrives on change, ours is about the most interesting industry in which to work, at the most interesting of moments. Of course, these changes are, in part, driven by necessity and the recognition that the 'current course and speed' will not take us where we want to go, but instead towards:
• Massive loss of exclusivity on current product lines in the next three to five years
• Growth stalling in the traditionally strong markets, with vigorous growth in those markets whose pharmaceutical priorities are still quite basic
• The strong likelihood of further challenging changes in the industry's flywheel market, the US
• Global restructuring of R&D and manufacturing efforts.

Changes in the pharmaceutical industry were underway before the huge shock to the world's financial systems and the inevitably belt-tightening in healthcare systems, both private and public, that resulted.

The ABPI exists to grapple with this world, on behalf of its members and the whole UK industry. For this reason we are focusing on the four industry imperatives previously described in this column, ie Value, Innovation, Trust and Access. Together they form the acronym VITA, which is Latin for 'life'.

Value ensures that the medicines we discover and make are valued and priced fairly so that today's NHS patients can receive them.

Innovation enhances the productivity of R&D in the UK, to restore our vital role in global new product discovery and development for the benefit of the future patient.

Trust builds the relationship we need with all our stakeholders and customers, without which none of the other imperatives can be fully achieved.

Access promotes working alongside the NHS so that the major disease burdens are tackled and the right patients receive the right medicine at the right time.

Industry is changing fast, and the ABPI with it. Our goal is for the ABPI to lead productive change, not just respond to the changes the world throws at us.

This requires full engagement; engagement within the industry – between the ABPI and all of its members and engagement without – with health professionals, policymakers and all our other important stakeholders. Engage with us.

The Author
Dr Richard Barker is director general of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

23rd June 2009

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