ABPI’s blueprint to build a pharma powerhouse in uncertain political times

The UK is in the grips of election fever, but whoever takes the reins on 13 December will need to “build a thriving environment for medicines discovery” if they want to improve health outcomes in the UK, the ABPI has said in its ‘Manifesto for Medicine’.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has called upon the next government to build on the strength of the industry to create a fit for the future NHS.

The 2020 Manifesto for Medicine sets out the body’s views on how political leaders should capitalise on the strength of the UK’s pharmaceutical industry, which employs more than 63,000 people, in the years ahead.

“Medicines are transforming our lives like never before,” says the document. “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to research, develop and use the medicines of the future.”

In order to “improve the health of UK patients”, it says, the next government should work towards world-leading access to cutting edge medicines and vaccines, prioritise health in the future EU/UK relationship, and “build a thriving environment for medicines discovery”.

“The cost effectiveness thresholds currently used by NICE need to be applied much more flexibly to reflect the full impact of new medicines on patients, carers, the NHS and society”

Solid foundations

The authors highlight the Voluntary Scheme for Branded Pricing and Access (VPAS), an agreement between the government, the NHS and the ABPI signed into being earlier this year.

It caps the growth of NHS branded medicines expenditure at two percent per annum for the next five years, and obliges companies to pay anything spent over this rate directly back to the government.

“The agreement means that the NHS has complete predictability on how much it spends on branded medicines, supports NHS patients to get new medicines quickly, and helps to foster innovation in the pharmaceutical industry,” says the manifesto.

Creating a global medicines powerhouse

The agreement paves the way to making the UK the best place in the world for patients to access breakthrough medicines and vaccines, it went on.

“Creating an NHS ‘fit for the future’ is about embracing cutting-edge technology so all patients in the UK have access to world-class standards of care and disease prevention. Working together, the ABPI and the next government can deliver patient access to the latest medicines and vaccines,” say the authors.

They also recommended that money paid back into the NHS by pharmaceutical companies under the VPAS be used to fund access and uptake initiative for new medicines, and that NICE “evolve” to boost access.

“The next government should value patients’ lives more than ever before. The baseline cost effectiveness thresholds currently used by NICE, unchanged for over 20 years, need to be applied much more flexibly to reflect the full impact of new medicines on patients, carers, the NHS and society.

“[It should also] increase the number of clinical trials in the UK, so that patients can benefit from the latest new medicines. This can be done by driving collaboration between the NHS and the life sciences sector and can support the NHS to become a global research powerhouse.”

Close relationships with EU partners 

The Brexit question hangs heavily over the election, but if the UK is to become a world leader in the delivery of new treatments, it needs a close relationship with the EU, says the ABPI and its members.

Membership has shaped and reinforced much of the life sciences industry’s scientific, regulatory and trade infrastructure. Sharing information on medicine safety and infectious disease control, as well as cross-Europe clinical trial design, have contributed to health security in the UK, the manifesto says.

To maintain and build upon this position, the next government should secure a deal with the EU to protect against disruption in the supply of medicines, as well as seek co-operation on drug regulation through a “meaningful contribution” to the European Medicines Agency.

Access to talent, through policies that facilitate and reciprocate freedom of movement for scientists, researchers and others, and collaboration with Horizon Europe, are also called for in the document.

“As the UK leaves the European Union, the government should prioritise building a new partnership that puts patients first and allows the UK to be a world leader in the delivery of new treatments,” it says.

A thriving environment

Ultimately, the ABPI believes that the pharmaceutical industry, which invests £4.3 billion in R&D every year, is critical to the health of the UK’s population and the success of the country as a whole.

“The sector is fully behind the aspiration to boost R&D investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, and up to three per cent in the longer term. The next government should reinforce a commitment to this target,” says the manifesto.

“Increasing investment in science will help provide the good quality jobs and innovation that will drive the future of the UK economy. Collaboration with industry will be essential to achieve this ambition.”

Boosting R&D investment, modernising the R&D tax credit and capital grant structure, and creating a new life sciences skills fund would all “build on the excellence of the UK’s life sciences sector”.

And this, the ABPI argues, will ensure the country remains a world leader in healthcare whatever happens on election day and beyond.

Read the ABPI’s 2020 Manifesto for Medicine here