European specialty pharmaceutical company Norgine has resigned from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), claiming that the group no longer represents the interests of smaller, specialist firms.

Specifically, Norgine says that, during the recent Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) negotiations, the ABPI "adopted negotiating positions which favour the business interests of a limited number of global multinationals, to the detriment of other parts of its membership and the UK healthcare system."

The firm goes on to claim that, during the talks, industry negotiators "took a conscious decision to sacrifice" products which innovate and improve the formulations of existing medicines “in order to protect the freedom of pricing for 'me-too' patent-protected medicines."

Announcing Norgine’s resignation, chief operating officer Peter Martin said it had "become clear in recent years that the ABPI’s agenda is driven by the interests of its largest multinational members and it is no longer representing the interests of small and medium-sized companies with existing products on the market." The industry group’s domination by a handful of large companies, whose business model depends on patent-protected "me-too" blockbusters, has resulted in "perverse consequences" for companies such as his, he added.

ABPI director-general Dr Richard Barker expressed regret at Norgine’s decision to resign from the association and pointed out that there had been a very full and open consultative process throughout the PPRS negotiations, which had won wide appreciation from large and small companies alike.

As a result of its close working with smaller firms and their individual trade associations, the ABPI had won significant concessions for such firms, added Dr Barker. For example, he said, they will be insulated from the price cuts imposed as part of the Scheme, as companies whose turnover was less than £5 million in 2007 will be completely exempt from the 3.9% price cut, while for those with turnover under £25 million, the first £5 million will be exempt.

Dr Frances Macdonald, an Actelion Pharmaceuticals director who represented smaller companies during the PPRS negotiations, added that the views and considerations of such firms had been "actively sought out and were key considerations" for the negotiating team and had been "woven into the fabric of the new PPRS, as witnessed by the concessions relating to size of turnover. In actively supporting the uptake of innovative new medicines, the revised PPRS will bring value to many small, innovative companies and help them compete in the market," she said.

Dr Baker also pointed out that, for the first time, the new PPRS will not simply be an economic agreement but one which will encourage innovation and should benefit all products that do not have effective generic competition. "It is an agreement for all, not a few," he said.