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Pharma demands guarantees for UK sector deal

Ten companies warn of Brexit threat, and long-standing flaws in medicines access

Department of Health

A group of US-headquartered pharma companies have called on the UK government to guarantee that a comprehensive ‘Sector Deal’ will be implemented as promised.

Writing in the Financial Times today, Erik Nordkamp, managing director of Pfizer UK and chairman of the American Pharmaceutical Group (APG), said the sector needed a “binding commitment” to the masterplan which was launched in December last year.

The strategy is overseen by the Department of Health (pictured) and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) - but it is the Treasury, which has a firm grip on public spending, which will have the final say on honouring commitments.

The APG group includes 10 US-headquartered firms 10 companies (Pfizer, Janssen, AbbVie, Amgen, Biogen, BMS, Celgene, Gilead, Lilly, MSD) and many of its leaders have already expressed doubts that the Life Sciences Sector Deal will be fully implemented.

In an opinion-piece entitled ‘Britain’s flawed medicines regime urgently needs reform’ Nordkamp said the UK’s ‘low and slow’ uptake of new medicines remained a problem. Meanwhile Brexit still threatens to isolate the UK from the European Medicines Agency bloc, a move which would see it relegated in importance as a launch market.

Erik Nordkamp

“The UK pharmaceutical industry and the patients who rely on it are under serious threat from Brexit as well as from the flawed way medicines are developed, tested and made available to patients in the country,” writes Nordkamp (pictured).

While Nordkamp’s op-ed implicitly recognises that the outcome of Brexit negotiations aren’t entirely in Prime Minister Theresa May’s hands, it suggests that the government does have the means to invest in funding for medicines and R&D.

Among his recommendations, Nordkamp suggested the UK takes a leaf out of a neighbour’s book. He says Belgium has invested in a life science strategy and is now reaping the benefits -  the EU’s highest levels of R&D expenditure per head leading to the most medicines under development and clinical trials per head.

The op-ed from the US pharma group has been timed to coincide with an important meeting between pharma industry representatives and UK government ministers, including Greg Clark, business secretary and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

In December the government pledged to increase R&D spending of £2.3bn in 2021/2022 – raising public funding of research to £12.5bn – with the aim of enlisting the aid of industry to spend 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027.

However, even if the government honours the Sector Deal in full won't provide a complete solution - while it was wide-ranging, it didn’t cover uptake of new medicines. This will instead be part of the negotiations to replace the PPRS pricing deal, with talks now getting underway.

A faltering UK economy, with the stormclouds of Brexit on the horizon, means the government’s Treasury department is not able to spend freely, however.

Just yesterday, Theresa May announced a real-terms annual rise of 3.4% in NHS spending until 2023-24, giving the NHS in England £20.5bn more a year by the end of the period.

However the government also hinted that this would be paid for by tax rises, with cuts to other areas of spending a possibility.

While the new NHS spending commitment has been welcomed, including by the UK industry association the ABPI, most expert commentators say the sums won’t be enough to resolve the health service’s long-term debt problems.

Read the Financial Times opinion piece in full here (subscription required).

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

19th June 2018

From: Research

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