Richard Barker, director-general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, is stepping down after the trade body's annual meeting in May next year, after more than six years in the post.

The ABPI says that Dr Barker has helped establish it as "one of the most effective national associations in its sector worldwide", building strong links to government and the health service, and delivering "a series of initiatives to advance the reputation and impact of the industry". The search for a successor will begin immediately, with an appointment being made next spring.

Following the handover to his successor, Dr Barker will act as a senior advisor to the ABPI for up to a year. He said that "with the UK environment going through further rapid and dynamic evolution, next year will be a good time to hand over the reins".

Dr Barker did not give any details about his future plans, though they will involve staying in healthcare. In the meantime, he said "I am very much focused on continuing the vital work we are doing at the ABPI".

Simon Jose, general manager of GlaxoSmithKline UK and ABPI president, paid a warm tribute to Dr Barker, saying he has been "a very visible champion for the ABPI over the past six years, engaging in both private and public discussions about a wide range of issues...which are key not only to the industry, but to patients and the NHS". He added that Dr Barker has also led the ABPI through "an important evolution internally, which has established some firm foundations that his successor will be able to build on".