BI chief “regrets” Brexit, but continues to invest in UK

The head of Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim has said that he “regrets” Brexit, but reassured patients in the country that the company still regards it as an important market for new drug launches.

BI’s managing director and board chairman Hubertus von Baumbach made the comments at the company’s annual results press conference in Germany, where the normally secretive company gives its yearly business update to journalists from around the world.

He said: “We regret Brexit, but see it as an encouragement to fight even more strongly for Europe. We are firmly committed to Europe as a location for industry and research and we are planning investments here of more than three billion euros within the next five years.”

Von Baumbach’s comments follow the claims from the CEO of French pharma Ipsen earlier this year that the company will launch drugs in China ahead of the UK after Brexit because of the relatively small size of its market and its likely split from the European drug regulation system.

According to Boehringer’s von Baumbach, the UK government’s investment in the life sciences industry, and its championing of the sector as part of its industrial strategy, means that the country remains a priority as a place to launch new drugs despite Brexit.

However like many others von Baumbach is keen to see more details about how Brexit will pan out.

He told journalists in a question and answer session: “The UK in the past was a very important market for the company. There is no reason despite Brexit, why it should not be an important market in the future.

“However no one will be able to tell you how this will be achieved, they won’t know many of the details. We do anticipate the potential of a rich market, we start from the assumption that our drugs are going to be important in the UK market.”

Following on from the press event spokesperson for Boehringer Ingelheim told pharmaphorum that measures introduced as part of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy are “ a welcome sign at the UK government’s commitment to maintaining the health and vitality of the sector”.

“The policy is continuing to secure significant investment from the sector despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit which indicates how well it is being received.”

Boehringer’s spokesperson said the still company views the UK as “an exciting place to identify life science entrepreneurs and academic research partners”.

Its investment strategy has not changed since the Brexit referendum of 2016, and total spend on R&D activities in the UK for 2018 £16m, the spokesperson said.

BI said that last year it began a “Grass Roots” initiative in the UK to provide strategic advice and mentorship to life science entrepreneurs.

The idea behind the scheme is to build relationships with groups working on innovative concepts who may be considering future partnerships with industry.

But like many other pharma companies, Boehringer wants to see more done to ensure its drugs are reimbursed and used by the NHS in a timely manner,

The spokesperson added: “The real test however is if the policy will be accompanied by effective improvement measures to address some of the access and uptake barriers that are still resulting in slower adoption of innovative medicines compared to other key markets.

“We do not feel the picture in this area is currently clear and it is perhaps too early to tell. For now we are keeping a close watching brief.”

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