ABPI Conference Pushes Innovation and Collaboration

The UK could be a centre for pharmaceutical innovation but the industry first must collaborate, pharmaceuticals have been told.

The dominant theme at the recent ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) conference was regarding driving innovation and collaboration, both of which are viewed as critical to the future success of the industry, the efficiency of the NHS, improving outcomes for patients, and the UK’s future economic growth.

Concerns about the UK as a future location for innovation have circulated for a while but according to presenters at the conference the problem isn’t an absence of innovation.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, noted “we have great creativity and I think we have lots and lots of examples of proof of concept but there is a gap between proof of concept and the tipping point of clinical mass to generate return on investment.”  He added that the problem was “very poor co-ordination.”

The NHS is seen as a perfect place to conduct clinical trials and currently there are almost 800 pharmaceutical trials in the system, Professor Martin Gibson, the associate director of industry, National Institute for Health Research Comprehensive Clinical Research Network, observed.  Similarly, Professor Martin Gore, medical director at the Royal Marsden Hospital, believed that the NHS should not be a barrier to innovation when it has such a strong science base and clinicians that want to do research.

Meanwhile, Dr Allison Jeynes-Ellis, director of medical and innovation at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, stated that the UK has several unique selling points it should use to push its innovation leadership status, such as the opportunities for generating real world data, the patent box, and other tax initiatives.

Nevertheless, there is the issue that the definition of innovation means different things to different stakeholders.  According to 81% of the conference audience, this variety of definitions will cause future problems within the industry.

Questions were also raised about how the industry can afford innovation when it is so expensive and risky to do so.  But Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI, said the reality is that “we can’t afford not to innovate… It’s expensive but it’s affordable because the alternatives are not”.  Whitehead also added that using innovation should be a “win, win, win” situation for the industry, NHS and patients – but that can only be achieved by working together.

Collaboration and partnership is becoming increasingly common and a number of examples were showcased at the conference.  Mike Farrar commented that pharma needs to move away from pushing products onto organisations that don’t need them and instead look at creating a pull environment, possibly co-ordinated by the NHS Confederation, where particular innovation and value would be married to the organisations that requires it.

Simon Jose, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, concluded commenting that innovation needs to be reviewed right across the value chain all the way from the bench to the patient.  “There is a lot of energy and support for innovation but it has to make its way into the commercial environment and the NHS… we have a responsibility now to work with our customers and have an aligned agenda.  If we can work together we can again make the UK a great place in the life sciences space.”



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