ABPI Issues Call to Improve UK Pharma

Published on: 

The head of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has issued a stark warning about the state of the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.

The head of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has issued a stark warning about the state of the UK’s pharmaceutical industry. In particular, concerns have been raised about the lack of new medicines being used by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which has affected the profits of the pharmaceutical industry and led to a decline of R&D in the country.

“The UK is amongst the slowest adopter of new medicines in Europe, despite low prices, and our spending on new medicines is actually set to decline further,” Stephen Whitehead, chief executive, said in a statement.

The UK was one of the first countries to adopt a healthcare pricing reform with the establishment of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which assesses whether a medicine should be available to patients on the NHS based on its costs versus therapeutic benefits. However, even when new medicines are approved by NICE they are not always available to NHS patients. Whitehead said, “A recent report by the NHS Information Centre found that NICE-appraised medicines are being underused by the NHS in half of disease groups.”

The ABPI claims that there is a ‘social contract’ between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS. Whitehead explains, “We discover and develop medicines, at great cost whilst enduring the very real risk of failures, to address unmet medical need and we get reward for that risk through sales to the NHS so we can reinvest in new treatments… This contract has broken down, new medicines are not being adopted despite stringent assessments of value.”

With new medicines not being used, the pharmaceutical industry is not receiving sufficient return of investment. Whitehead added that R&D in the UK has declined from 6% of global clinical trials to just 1.2%. In addition, he added that job losses in the past four years within the industry have amounted to 16000.


Healthcare systems are changing across the western world. Elsewhere in Europe, Germany is in a state of flux because of changes in the pricing environment that now require new medicines to undergo a cost–benefit analysis before they can be reimbursed.

Across the pond in the US, the country is on the cusp of healthcare reform with the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act.

Only time will tell how these reforms will impact the global pharmaceutical industry.

In the UK, Whitehead is calling for stakeholders to address the issues at hand now. “We need to find a model that stimulates R&D, motivates the NHS to adopt innovative medicines and encourage further discoveries in our battle against disease,” he said.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom for those of you based in the UK. The government is already aware of the problems and is looking to address them through its Innovation, Health and Wealth review, which is being supported by the ABPI. The review aims to ensure both the sustainability of the NHS and the research-based industry.