A survey of UK-based pharmaceutical companies has revealed that many of them believe the environment in the country is making life increasingly difficult for innovative drugmakers.

The research, carried out by ComRes for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the Confederation of British Industry shows that three-quarters of those companies polled do not see the UK as an attractive place to do business. It is especially difficult “when viewed in a global context, and policy and regulations are seen as inappropriate for the modern pharmaceutical industry”, the survey claims.

The poll, which saw ComRes survey 47 general managers or managing directors of ABPI member companies, concludes that the two most important steps the government could take to improve the environment are “reducing the time it takes for patients to gain access to modern medicines” (83% believe it is “very important”) and “rewarding innovation” (80%).

Some 37% of companies are planning to change their business model for discovering and developing medicines, and the ABPI/CBI survey notes that many have already done this. More than three-quarters (78%) of those surveyed are planning to change how they work with the National Health Service.

The survey comes in the wake of the UK government's Office of Life Sciences' blueprint, launched by Lords Drayson and Darzi in July. That initiative was announced with the aim of putting innovation at the heart of healthcare delivery, ensure faster patient access to new treatments and transforming the UK environment for life sciences companies.

The ABPI‘s director-general Richard Barker said that the OLS blueprint, “on which many of us have worked hard, is still just that – a blueprint”. He added that “construction of the new environment on the basis of that document must now be the priority.”

Just 43% of the companies surveyed expect the OLS plans to have an impact "even over the comparatively short timespan of a year”, though ABPI president Chris Brinsmead said the survey still shows “a marked increase in confidence over last year’s survey”. However he added that it also highlights that there are “still major concerns over the UK environment for medicines development, needing plans to improve the situation”.

Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, said the pharmaceutical industry “is a real UK success story and will be critical to our recovery from this recession”. It “underpins over 250,000 jobs and drives a quarter of all R&D investment”, he added.

“Unfortunately”, he went on, “this survey reveals some real concerns about the UK’s regulatory climate, and it is worrying that so many pharma companies do not rate the UK against its international competitors”. Given this, “the industry must get better support in the UK to help it continue to invest and innovate,” Mr Lambert concluded.

See next month’s PharmaTimes magazine for an analysis of the state of R&D in the UK