The UK medicines trade balance of imports versus exports has dipped 14% over the past six months, according to new figures from the Association of the

British Pharmaceutical Industry, which warns that there could be cause for concern. The figures declined from a little under £1.7 billion in the first half of 2004 to just over £1.4 billion, triggered by a drop in exports and a rise in imports.

A spokesperson told PharmaTimes News Online that the pharmaceutical industry has been in the top three contributors to the UK’s trade balance for a considerable number of years, adding: “To see this disappear or decline would be a grave problem.” This is the first time a drop in the medicines trade balance has been observed and, while it was noted this must be put into perspective because the figures do fluctuate and may have picked up by the end of the year, the ABPI believes they are significant enough to draw attention to, adding: “There are real concerns that the UK is becoming increasingly uncompetitive, particularly with regard to manufacturing.”

The ABPI is planning to meet with the Government to discuss how best to retain the UK’s pharmaceuticals manufacturing base. “These figures seem to confirm that there is a cause for concern,” observed Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI. “While the dip is small - and, of course, is only over six months rather than the full year - it sounds another warning signal.”