Specialty biopharmaceutical company Shire has joined the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) as a full member.

Nicola Massey, vice present and general manager of Shire's UK international specialty business, joins the ABPI Board of Management, with immediate effect, and Ms Massey and Janis Clayton, vice president and general manager of Shire's UK human genetics therapy business, told Pharma Times why they have decided to join the ABPI.

"Shire is a fast-growing company with high ambitions and our UK business continues to evolve; we seek to play a role in the development and growth of our industry, so joining the ABPI will be one way of contributing to this. We are looking forward to working with the ABPI and engaging with their wider membership on issues that are important to all of us but, most importantly, to fight for the needs of our patients," they said.

Shire's decision was warmly welcomed by the ABPI's chief executive, Stephen Whitehead, who told Pharma Times: "this is a critical time for industry and a very important time for our members. The ABPI provides a strong voice and strong leadership for our members and we are very happy to be supporting Shire as we go forward."

This month has also seen announcements from international biopharmaceutical company ViroPharma and kidney treatment specialist Fresenius Medical Care (UK) Ltd that they have now become full members of the ABPI. The Association points out that it has been investing heavily to increase its support for smaller companies, which now have clearer representation and ABPI services which respond directly to their needs and interests.

"The Smaller Company Forum (SFC) and the CEO Forum are now firmly established - with record high attendance - and the ABPI Board of Management has three dedicated seats for smaller companies," Sam Ogden, member services director at the ABPI, told Pharma Times.

There is also a dedicated seat for smaller companies on the ABPI industry negotiating team; this is taken by Pete Butterfield, who chairs the SCF and is an ABPI Board member.

"In response to the concerns of small companies in these challenging economic times, we have changed our fee structures to ensure that all our members are able to budget for membership and feel that our services are real value for money," the industry group also told Pharma Times.

The regionally-based ABPI NHS Partnership team has been set up to support member companies in addressing the difficult issues of access and uptake into the NHS, the Association adds. "This team is already supporting our smaller company members in understanding and keeping up with local changes within the NHS, and this is of real value, especially when members may not have dedicated regional market access teams," it says.