(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc said it chose Ireland for a new manufacturing facility instead of the UK because of punitive tax rates, raising fresh fears over Britain’s attractiveness to Big Pharma.
The drugmaker initially wanted to make the $360 million investment in the UK, but “the tax rate was discouraging,” Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a briefing with journalists. “You need an environment that gives you good returns and incentive to invest.”
Soriot also pointed to Ireland’s commitment to rapidly delivering green energy over the next few years as another reason why that country was more attractive for Cambridge, England-based AstraZeneca.
The comments are at odds with the government’s ambitions to turn the UK into a life-sciences superpower. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the creation of a new science department this week as part of a broader reorganization.
Other pharmaceuticals leaders have also pointed to the challenges facing the UK, with GSK Plc’s Emma Walmsley last week warning that Britain is at a “tipping point” if the right decisions aren’t taken soon. Meanwhile, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said that the UK is at risk of causing long-term damage to its once-vaunted life science sector, which would further limit patients’ access to cutting-edge medicines.
Read More: Europe Pharma Sector Risks Lagging the World, Say Drug Chiefs
A drug-pricing agreement between the government and the pharmaceutical industry has also been criticized in recent months, with drugmakers Eli Lilly & Co. and AbbVie Inc. pulling out of the voluntary scheme because of surging repayment rates.
The deal caps how much the National Health Service would need to pay for branded medicines, with the industry covering the extra spending in a context where health-care costs have soared because of the pandemic.
“Now we are told you have to live with what you signed up to, but we didn’t sign up to have to cover the cost of Covid,” Soriot said. “What we would like to see is a return to the kind of rebates that we saw in the past.”
Soriot highlighted the need for a variety of people and positions at every level of drugmaking, from statisticians, to IT staff and regulatory experts, to build a vibrant industry.
“If we want a flourishing life sciences sector, we need more than discovery science,” he said. “It’s all very nice to discover something in the lab. At some point you need other types of people to progress the project.”
(Updates with Soriot comments on rebates in eighth paragraph)
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