London, UK, 20th November 2017 / Sciad Newswire / Returning to London for its landmark sixth year, the annual Pharma Integrates event, which took place on 15–16 November at the Grange City Hotel, drew top-tier, straight-talking industry experts to the stage to tackle the critical issues of the moment
With 372 attendees, 99 speakers, 31 sponsors and 14 channel partners in one place, Pharma Integrates 2017 was always going to be a busy — and noisy — affair, and it didn’t disappoint. In the run up to the event, Maya Zlatanova of FindMeCure posted: “Looking forward to meeting some interesting people and exchanging views about accelerating the drug development process by using technology and industry’s best practices.” Andrew Whittamore of Asthma UK added: “I’m looking forward to hearing about the future direction of drug development and access, the use of technology in healthcare and opportunities for partnership working, especially regarding the patient experience.” The stage was set!
Giving the opening presentation, Lisa Anson, President, AstraZeneca UK and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), set the scene: “The business of discovering and developing medicines has never been more exciting,” she said, adding: “Globally, there are more than 7000 new medicines in development. The advanced use of patient data, real world-evidence and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced analytics are helping to increase the pace of research and development, delivering medical breakthroughs and improving patient outcomes.”
“We should be proud,” she continued: “We are a great British success story, attracting investment and talent, thousands of skilled jobs and changing the lives of patients in every corner of the UK.” Yet, it’s not all good news. There is a growing body of evidence, including government data, showing that the UK lags behind similar nations in terms of patient health outcomes and access to medicines. UK patients are five times less likely to get the newest cost-effective medicines compared with patients in other EU countries, such as Germany or France. “Of the 7000 compounds in development, not all will make it … but all will help to improve patient outcomes,” she said: “However, industry must address the longstanding issues of patient access to medicines.”
Despite the revelation that the UK healthcare system is under funded by £20–30 million per year, Dr Ian Hudson, Chief Executive, MHRA, was in buoyant form: “We’re here to support, provide advice and help SMEs to advance new therapeutics,” he said, suggesting that the key to regulatory success is to “get some advice and follow it.” When asked how industry can work better with regulators to improve productivity, the simple answer was: “Talk to us.” He also highlighted the need for patients to question the wisdom of buying drugs online.
On the thorny and much-debated topic of Brexit and the EU Medicines Agency leaving the UK, Ian admitted that no one really knows what the outcome will be. But, with 500 million EU patients relying on a smooth, quick and effective Brexit, the general consensus was that we must seize the opportunity to address challenges such as the harmonisation of track & trace requirements and keep pace with Europe. “We must ensure that our industry continues to thrive, and that patients throughout Europe continue to directly benefit from the medicines generated as a result of our world-class research activity.”
When Prof. Trevor Jones interviewed Dr Franz Humer, former chairman of Roche and Diageo, PI delegates were soundly reminded that “Big Pharma is a business, a global business, and not a charity.” Dr Humer also pointed out that “drug pricing has been an issue for the last 40 years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.” Historically, he noted, pharma has hidden a lack of innovation with annual price hikes … and non-innovators have often just reverted to generics and biosimilars and simply competed on price. But, he added: “When patents expire, prices drop, which gives industry room to cost innovation properly.” Furthermore, he advised against mega-mergers — it holds up R&D for years and costs peoples’ jobs — and predicted the rise of China as the second biggest market for innovative pharma products in the world.
When asked about Brexit and whether Europe needs the UK healthcare industry to move forward, he stated a resounding yes … but warns that politics can overrule pragmatism! And, finally, commenting on the future of pharma in general, he wonders whether individual companies are doing the right things today to ensure innovation in the coming decades. Badly behaved pharmaceutical companies damage the industry, he concluded. Only time will tell.
Even before the roundtable debates began, much had been discussed and key messages to industry were being forged. Lisa Anson enthused that “Post-Brexit Britain will continue to be one of the best places in the world for science and innovation.” She also declared the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (LSIS) to be an important milestone, which “gives us confidence that government will support our ambition. Now is the time to turn this ambition in to decisive action; we must ensure that the strategy is built on future-proof foundations to create an NHS that can sustainably adopt innovation.”
But, she cautioned: “If government wants to meet the LSIS ambition for the UK to be in the top quartile of comparator countries — both for the speed of adoption and the overall uptake of innovative medicines by 2023 — the level of investment in the NHS needs to significantly increase, including an increased investment in medicines.”
She recognises this to be a significant ask when balanced against the need to manage health budgets, but also believes the commitment to improving access to medicines would be the biggest signal from government that it shares our ambition for healthcare and life sciences in the UK.
“We must work together as a sector to align on positive solutions and be a positive force for the future of healthcare,” she concluded: “We must secure the future of the pharma and life sciences sector for patients as few other industries make such a difference to our world.”
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