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Pharma and the new parliament

With the last few votes still to be counted, a selection of key industry figures talk about their hopes and fears for a new parliament
Three pills - one yellow, one blue, one red - each identifying a major UK political partyThe run-up boded an almost certain change in the political landscape of the UK, with David Cameron's Conservatives grasping a firm hold of the national imagination and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats gaining Obama-style popularity and an unexpected rise to prominence. 

Despite being disappointed at the polls, Clegg is now in a position of unrivalled power in the hung parliament, as he decides whether to ally with the left or the right. In the climate of uncertainty, one fact seems inevitable: the UK will experience shifts in healthcare policy and spending in the near future. During the prime ministerial debates, for instance, a common theme was the issue of NHS waste and how the parties would address this, as was the ever-popular topic of local service closures. Pharmaceutical Marketing sought the opinion of several key opinion leaders in the industry to gauge their hopes and fears for the future, and ask what one question they would pose to the new parliament. 

Steve Poulton, director of commercial operations, Pfizer UK

Hopes that the new Government:
·Will take a broader view of medicines and recognise their proper value in helping to achieve their goals.  
·Will make every effort to help the pharma industry compete in a global market place. 
·Continues efforts to work with the industry to enable greater access to new medicines. 

·That the trust and understanding the industry is starting to build with the Government will be lost or will lose momentum. 
·That — in light of the financial pressures facing the economy, the public sector, and the NHS specifically — the Government will view healthcare funding as an expense to be minimised, rather than an investment to be managed. 

"How does the new Government see the pharma industry contributing to the health and wealth of the UK"?

Leslie Galloway, chairman, the Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG)

I want to see a greater reflection of the specific needs of the small and medium sized pharma sector in the policies of the new Government across all issues, including the future direction of the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), market access and medicines management and, of course, pricing and reimbursement in the UK.

Across the industry I think that we all share a concern about the impact a tough economic environment will have on the continued funding of healthcare. All political parties have committed to protect the NHS budget and I believe this is essential to ensure continued patient access to the high quality value for money medicines produced by our members.  

Our biggest concern is the future of the Department of Health (DH)'s current proposals to introduce automatic generic substitution, which EMIG believes will expose patients to unnecessary additional risks for little or no clinical benefit. We also do not believe that it will deliver the cost savings envisaged by DH and may even cost the NHS more in the long run.

“Will the new government commit to see out the current five year PPRS deal before making moves to reform the scheme?”

Stuart Rose, managing director, Merz Pharma

Fears that: 
·Access to medicines will not be seriously addressed and the UK continues to become the furthest behind in terms of uptake of innovative medicines.

·As a result, multinationals will consider disinvestment in the UK.

·Medicines will continue to be seen as areas for savings and the PPRS will (again) be tinkered with. 

Hopes that: 
·A minister of life sciences will be appointed to the Cabinet. 

·Wasteful bureaucracy will be understood, quantified and stripped out of the system, saving costs and improving uptake rates of innovative medicines, and that therefore the NHS becomes a simpler, more transparent beast to navigate for industry. 

·If wasteful bureaucracy is removed, to some extent the remaining infrastructure is real (not a quango), accessible and engaged with pharma. This would particularly relate to Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) (whose agenda is clear and, assuming they remain under whichever guise in a new government), that they have clear channels for engagement.

"What are the clear and timed plans to deliver the £23bn savings from the NHS in the next 3–4 years?"

Dr Richard Barker, director general, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)

All the major parties have endorsed the vehicle of the office for life sciences to drive ahead a strategic agenda to restore the UK's leading position in pharmaceutical innovation. We will look to the leader of the future government to quickly reinforce the OLS and demand faster progress in rebuilding the UK's life sciences leadership.   

On fears, my hope is innovation is not a casualty of the inevitable squeeze on public expenditure in the coming few years.

"Now that UK medicines prices are the lowest in Western Europe, do you plan to use this opportunity to provide NHS patients with the best access to modern treatments?"

Mark Saxon, senior account director, hanover

Hopes that:
· At a time of likely budget cuts, the NHS and pharma can develop meaningful partnerships that help deliver efficiencies and improved patient care, and where new medicines are seen as a solution not just a cost burden.

·The office for life sciences and greater encouragement of R&D will continue.

·HTAs will begin to consider societal benefits where appropriate. 

Fears that: 
·The introduction of value-based pricing will be used as an excuse to cut costs.

"In a cash-strapped NHS, will other treatments and services now be subjected to the same rigorous assessment of cost- and clinical-effectiveness as pharmaceuticals currently are? Why not challenge everything the NHS currently does to the same standards?" 

Richard Marsh, director and partner, regional healthcare for the UK, Africa and the Middle East, Fleishman-Hillard

I hope that the industry will find a way of truly engaging the Government in answering the question of how to measure the value of medicines. The last decade has been a case of rounds one to ten to NICE and if innovative medicine is to have a future here, industry has got to find a way of starting to redress the balance. My fear is that when politicians talk about "value- based pricing" it is just elect-me speak for cutting prices.

"How will you make the NHS more open to innovative products, practices and partnerships at a time when the overwhelming focus will be on saving money in each financial year?"

Sarah Phillips, head of health, Ipsos Mori

I fear that after the election the public will regret having cast their vote in some form of reality TV extension of "The X-Factor", due to the televised debates. I think that the Nick Clegg surge in popularity is due less to a sudden realisation that Liberal policies are the best for the country, more due to the fact that he is an alternative to the others, and few can name many of his policies. The British have a habit of dropping reality contestants as fast as they pick them up. I hope we don't wake up and realise this after the event.

I hope we will end up with an outright winner, not a hung parliament. The British political system is designed as one for combative debate, not cosy co-habitation (unlike on the Continent). I fear that a hung parliament will mean parties tearing each other apart, knee-jerk policies being put through (such as parliamentary reform) and a second election. Given the state of the economy, and the cuts in spending, we need a decisive leadership to take us forward.

"Just how big is the financial challenge the NHS needs to respond to, and how do you expect them to do it?"

"What are the priorities for the NHS to protect and where are they going to have to disinvest?"

"If funding needs to shrink, what are the core aspects of the NHS that will remain ring-fenced?"

From this overview of the thoughts of key opinion leaders in the industry, it is clear that the themes that will be of concern to the industry moving forward will include the role of the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), the future of the PPRS, NHS funding and the economic environment and its impact on the industry's ability to innovate. 

It remains to be seen, once we find out who he is, how the Prime Minister will respond to these challenges, and whether the Government will fulfil its campaign-trail promises. 

If you would like to comment on this article, please join the discussion on our LinkedIn group at or email 

7th May 2010


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