UK pharma negotiating choppy seas during Brexit, says ABPI’s outgoing president Nordkamp

pharmaphorum caught up with Erik Nordkamp, outgoing president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), who has also changed role at Pfizer to become the organisation’s Cluster Lead Europe. Nordkamp told pharmaphorum how UK pharma is plotting its way through the chaos of Brexit, while creating a vision for the future of the country’s life sciences industry sector with its new pricing deal for branded drugs.

What are the biggest strengths in the life sciences sector deal, and what do you think can be improved? 

As ABPI president, it has been my priority to support creation of an ‘innovation ready’ NHS, which will benefit patients and help make sure we have a thriving life sciences sector.

It was good to see that theme running through the second sector deal – a recognition that the NHS is pivotal in helping to create and deliver innovations to patients.

An excellent element of the second sector deal was the boost it will give to late-stage commercial research. One element of the deal was the establishment of five purpose-built centres dedicated to late-phase commercial research in 2019 to 2020.

They will offer rapid set-up of late-phase commercial research, standardised contracting and delivery approaches where appropriate, together with dedicated facilities and staff. The UK needs to attract more high value, late stage R&D. These centres will help, so were very welcome.

But in order to maintain our thriving life sciences sector, we need the right skills. Under the Sector Deal, the ABPI will play a key role in delivering a Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy, working through the Science Industry Partnership. We will also pursue other initiatives to inspire young home-grown talent about STEM careers.

We want to make sure our sector has the skills it needs to thrive well into the future. Developing and attracting the best talent in life sciences is an ongoing priority for us. If we don’t address the skills shortages we face, our world-leading status for medicines R&D is at risk.

How confident are you that the long-term plan for the NHS will produce service improvements and keep pace with demand?

I am confident that the plan will produce service improvements, but whether it will keep pace with demand is a more difficult question, in the context of an ageing population and the challenging financial environment the NHS faces.

Industry can play a key role in helping the NHS meet the demand challenges it faces – there are many industry/NHS collaborations which have helped the NHS deliver better care for patients in a more efficient way, helping to meet demand or manage it in the first place. The challenge is how to make these successes happen on a wider scale and at pace.

What we need is for the NHS ten-year plan to create a ‘runway’ for new medicines and technologies to be introduced into the NHS in a way that the system can prepare and change in a timely fashion. By doing this, I believe the NHS can free up resources and provide better care for patients. That’s what we all want to see.

What do you think are the most important priorities for industry to prepare for a post-Brexit environment?

Our priorities remain the same as they have always been since just after the referendum. Firstly, we are doing everything we can to make sure people continue to get their medicines, no matter what the scenario. This includes planning alternative routes for medicines, building up our stocks, transferring marketing authorisations and duplicating testing and assurance processes in the UK and the EU.

We still need to secure co-operation with the EU on the regulation of medicines, access to the best talent, globally and in the UK, and predictable access to funding and collaboration for scientific research.

Once again, for all these to happen – we need a deal. Like everyone else, we are watching the political developments on this with great interest.

What were your main learnings from your previous role at the Innovation Forum in Greece, and how will you relate this to your role at the ABPI?

When we established the Pharmaceutical Innovation Forum in Greece in 2012/13, we did it to ensure that despite the hardship the country was facing we could still ensure a sustainable stream of innovative, transformative medicines for patients.

The main learning was that you can only do this with a trusting relationship and honest and transparent dialogue with government and the broader health system. You need a shared vision on how the government, the broader health system, and the industry will work together to secure innovative and transformative medicines for patients.

In my role at the ABPI this is exactly what we aspire to as well and we have made a lot of progress in the last few years with the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, the new VPAS (2019 Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access) agreement, and the establishment of various forums where we have this dialogue. But creating trust, transparency and dialogue takes time and can be lost quickly.

Knowing that we have collective responsibility to deliver for patients should keep us on the right path here.

What do you think are the main challenges facing the ABPI in terms of securing access to medicines in the UK?

The types of medicines being researched and developed are changing – for example, therapies are becoming more targeted and treating smaller patient populations, there is increased development of therapies for rare diseases, and more and more medicines are offering curative potential. Current technology appraisal methods and limited access to innovative flexible commercial deals can represent a particular challenge for these medicines.

There is an opportunity to review the approaches being taken in the upcoming NICE methods and process review. The ABPI will be working with NICE and other stakeholders to explore solutions to enable technology appraisal methods to better meet the needs of the innovative pipeline.

The ABPI is also working with NHS England and NICE on the development of a commercial framework – as part of the new VPAS agreement. Part of this aims to allow a more flexible approach to commercial access arrangements – which we think will be important in getting new medicines to patients going forwards.

What has been the ABPI’s biggest success in this regard?

Agreeing VPAS at the end of 2018 which was a commitment by industry, NHS England and Government to support innovation for the benefit of patients across the UK.

The scheme strikes a balance between supporting innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, helping to get the most cost-effective medicines to patients as quickly as possible and, for the first time, ensures complete predictability on spend for the entire branded medicines bill for the NHS. The reformed and enhanced scheme has the potential to speed up access and uptake of medicines through:

  • More NICE appraisals for new medicines;
  • Alignment of appraisal timings for cancer and non-cancer medicines to enable some patients to have access to new medicines up to six months earlier;
  • Better horizon-scanning, planning and access to more flexible commercial options to speed up access to new medicines;
  • Improving the uptake and use of clinically cost-effective medicines.

The ABPI is working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NICE to evolve the market access environment to improve access to new medicines for UK patients.

About the interviewee:

Erik Nordkamp

Erik Nordkamp is currently the GM UK and Cluster lead Europe/Australia/New Zealand for Pfizer’s Upjohn Division and President of the ABPI (Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry). He was UK Managing Director at Pfizer from Feb 2015 until Dec 2018. During his tenure as UK MD, Erik has also been Chair of the UK APG (American Pharmaceutical Group) from June 2016 until July 2018, and a Non-Executive Director at King’s College Hospital Trust from Jan 2016 until July 2018.

Erik Nordkamp joined Pfizer in 2010 as Head of Strategy Primary Care Europe/ Canada and served as Pfizer President and Managing Director Greece, Cyprus and Malta from Aug 2012 to Feb 2015. During his time in Greece, Erik also served as President of PhRMA Innovation Forum, where he led the transformation of the forum, positioning it as the main representative body for the innovative pharmaceutical industry in Greece.