UK must draw up post-Brexit pharma strategy

All EU Flags in front of the European Parliament, Flags in front of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, Alsace, France

The government must draw up a pharma-friendly industrial strategy to ensure the industry remains in the UK after Brexit, influential figures have said, as uncertainties mount about a future outside the EU.

Much of the political discourse over the last weeks has focused on the impact of Brexit on the automotive and financial sectors, but the government has been urged to consider life sciences, which employs more than 220,000 people in the UK and has a turnover of more than £60 billion.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is due to announce his first ever autumn statement later this month, and industry leaders and commentators have made the case to ensure the life sciences industry is considered in his plans.

These points were made at a press briefing hosted by QuintilesIMS to launch a report from health forum Public Policy Projects (PPP).  The report contains recommendations on Brexit for life sciences, and encourages the government to strike the best deal for the sector.

The event was chaired by Stephen Dorrell, chair of the NHS Confederation, former Secretary of State for Health, and chair of PPP. He said maintaining a strong life sciences sector was vital for the country, and must be a key consideration in Brexit negotiations.

Pharma companies may delay or stop launches of drugs, or consider investing elsewhere if the Brexit negotiations do not work in their favour, the report warned.

The report's author, Luke Tryl, warned in the document: “Despite the current approach of business as usual, there is a widespread industry acceptance that the future relationship negotiated by the UK will determine future investment decisions.”

The report called on the government to consider pharma during Brexit negotiations. Pharma figures said a good first step would be to fund and implement proposals to encourage development and use of novel medicines.

In the longer term, these proposals could be part of a wider strategy to ensure pharma continues to invest in the UK after the government invokes Article 50 and begins negotiations to leave the EU.

Former chancellor, George Osborne, put life sciences at the centre of his plans to boost the economy following the financial crisis and the Conservative party is traditionally a strong supporter of pharma.

But it remains to be seen whether the current chancellor Philip Hammond will have the same enthusiasm for the industry, as the government prepares to begin Brexit negotiations in March next year.

Richard Barker, director of the Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation, called on the government to fund the Accelerated Access Review, published last week.

Commissioned by former life sciences minister George Freeman, the review aims to take years off the drug development process by aligning NICE’s cost-effectiveness assessments with regulatory reviews by the UK regulator.

Barker said: “We are not talking about billions of pounds. If we could get a clear statement that the Accelerated Access Review requirements are going to be funded that would be really good.”

He noted the industry is expecting a green paper outlining the government’s industrial strategy, which would also be an opportunity to send the right message to pharma companies when making decisions about whether to invest in the UK.

Leslie Galloway, chairman of the Ethical Medicines Industry Group, representing small and medium-sized pharma companies, urged the government to ensure the National Health Service is properly funded and has the financial muscle to pay for innovative medicines.

“What I would like to see is better funding from the NHS,” he said.

  • For more information about the report, catch up on a pharmaphorum/QuintilesIMS webinar, available for free on our website.