Patrick Vallance, Senior Vice President of Medicines Discovery and Development at GlaxoSmithKline, says the pharmaceutical industry must produce more medicines that people really want in order to help strengthen trust in the sector.

Outlining a number of challenges currently facing pharma at NICE’s annual conference last month, he emphasised that a key problem is the disparity between the large amount of cash being sunk into the industry but its dwindling productivity on the other side.

While there has been a significant acceleration of funding and understanding of biomedicine, there is a widening verge between the rate of discovery and the ability to translate new findings into medicines, he said.

Given the gulf between discovery and innovation, the fundamental question is, is too much money being spent on biomedical research? And should more be invested into translational research instead?

Pharma has access to an unprecedented knowledge base and one that is growing all the time, but it must learn how to better translate this knowledge into medicines and make the most of the opportunities available, to help it meet the challenges of the current environment and the health service’s needs.

The industry already covers 90% of diseases, and in a shift away from the traditional blockbuster model is moving to an era of disease fragmentation, in which medicines are being developed for certain aspects of disease pathways and smaller patient populations, he said.

The move away from blockbusters is also giving rise to a new model for R&D, one involving new kinds of partnerships and collaborations, open innovation and sharing of risk, that is slowly starting to bridge the gap between the industry, academia and the National Health Service.

Patients, doctors, and the industry all want medicines that make a substantial difference in the real world, marking definite alignment of interest, Vallance stressed, but issues of trust on all sides must be addressed and pharma must consider the needs of payors for the best chances of success going forward.