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Pharma applauds NHS R&D reforms

The pharmaceutical industry welcomes the UK government's new health research strategy, "Best Research for Best Health"

According to a report in the Financial Times (FT), the pharmaceutical industry has welcomed the UK government's new health research strategy, "Best Research for Best Health"

Professor Sally Davies, who is director of NHS R&D, drafted the new strategy. In an interview with FT, she said that the strategy combined spending to improve infrastructure with administrative changes, which would make UK hospitals more attractive to the pharmaceutical industry.

The new strategy will replace multiple research contracts with a single contract, which will reduce pharmaceutical company negotiation times with individual hospital trusts. Davies also revealed a unified "adoption committee" which will decide within two weeks if a proposal should be carried out in the NHS.

Approximately 61 industry-sponsored trials have already been agreed by the government's new clinical research networks and include investigations into cancer, brain disease, mental health, stroke, diabetes, paediatric medicines and primary care. Around 200 more are currently being discussed or assessed, with 91 companies presently involved under the new arrangements.

Both the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the BioIndustry Association have said they support the new measures. John Patterson, R&D director of AstraZeneca (AZ), who used to be a fierce critic of NHS clinical trial facilities, added that the new strategy had turned the unsatisfactory situation around.

The reforms have also been progressed by GBP 776m (USD 1.6bn) worth of NHS R&D funding in 2007-8, up from GBP 659m in 2006-7. For 2009-10, funding is projected to reach GBP 850m (USD 1.7bn), alongside a transparent mechanism for the way money is distributed based on population size and research excellence.

Total government spending on health research currently exceeds GBP 1.3bn (USD 2.6bn) a year. This includes a GBP 550m (USD 1.1bn) spent by the Medical Research Council (MRC) on biomedical science. A formal co-ordinating mechanism was set up in 2006, with the MRC and NHS working together as the new Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research.

3rd September 2007

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