The outgoing President of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has suggested that the UK’s pharmaceutical industry may be asking itself ’should I stay or should I go?’

Former ABPI president Nigel Brooksby has warned that the UK-based pharmaceutical industry is at a crossroads. In apparent reference to the recent decision by Shire Pharmaceuticals, Britain’s third-biggest pharmaceutical company, which is planning to move its parent company to Ireland to help protect the group’s tax position, Mr Brooksby warned that the relationship between Government and the industry must be restored if pharma is to retain its place as the UK’s leading science-based industry.

Addressing the Government’s decision to renegotiate the Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulations Scheme (PPRS - the UK price control mechanism) two years early, Mr Brooksby writes in the ABPI’s just-published Annual Report: “The Government’s decision dented business confidence and the reaction from our global head offices moved the matter beyond the UK, as they began to question the integrity of the UK investment environment.”

However, Mr Brooksby remains optimistic that the Government wants to keep and build on a strong relationship with the industry, writing: “We are committed to working with the Government to retain leadership in the UK; provide value for money; encourage and reward innovation; assist in the uptake of new medicines and, importantly, help restore industry confidence through predictability, stability and sustainability.”

Economic role
The ABPI Annual Report’s latest statistics highlight the importance of the pharmaceutical industry to the UK’s economic and physical health. Sales of medicines accounted for just 9.2% of NHS costs in 2007. Medicines cost just 46p per person per day, and prices are 24% lower in real terms than 10 years ago.

UK-based pharmaceutical companies account for nearly 25% of all UK business research and spend more than a third of their NHS sales revenues on R&D (more than £10 million every day). The ABPI’s figures show that this results in pharmaceutical exports of £14.6 billion in 2007, creating a trade surplus for the economy of £4.3 billion. The ABPI also points out that more than 20% of the world’s top medicines were discovered and developed in the UK: more than any other country except the USA, and as many as the rest of Europe combined.

However, the ABPI contends that UK patient access to innovative medicines remains one of the lowest in Europe.