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Mar 29, 2023
CEOs Have a Poor View of Britain, Says Pharma Lobby Boss
(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s ambition to become a “science superpower” will fail unless the government reverses the country’s reputation as a poor place to invest, the head of the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical lobby group has warned.
“I’m very concerned about the sentiment toward the UK among global leadership right now,” Richard Torbett, chief executive officer of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said in an interview Tuesday. “I have CEOs talking to me all the time about how far away from the rest of the world the UK has drifted.”
Torbett was speaking less than a fortnight after Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt pledged £1.8 billion ($2.2 billion) to help “20,000 cutting edge companies that day by day are turning Britain into a science superpower,” as part of a new research and development tax credit.
However, the ABPI boss said the government must overhaul its drug pricing structure or risk losing out on millions of pounds of investment.
“I don’t think the government stands a chance of meeting its targets on R&D unless the pharmaceutical industry turns its view of the UK round into being a good investment proposition,” Torbett said. “At the moment it’s just not.“
The industry is due to start talks with the government in April about a new drug pricing structure, with the current Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access — VPAS — set to expire at the end of the year. Under VPAS, spending on drugs by the National Health Service is capped, with companies made to refund the government if it ends up paying more than the agreed level on branded medicines.
Pharmaceutical giants AbbVie Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. left the agreement this year, which the ABPI said was a warning that the UK could find it harder to access certain medicines. Torbett said more could follow if the government doesn’t agree to a better framework from 2024.
“Companies will not want to send a signal that it is OK to sign up to something that is perceived to be punitive compared to other countries,” said Torbett.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said VPAS “ensures value for money for the UK taxpayer” and has “helped the NHS to deliver a record number of medicines to the public.”
Still, some people in the sector are also concerned that an unattractive pharma landscape could push companies to consider listing elsewhere. Oxford Nanopore Technologies Plc’s chief executive officer said last week that the UK tech company would consider listing on a foreign exchange, amid growing scrutiny of London’s position as a global financial center.
The headline terms of a new pricing agreement are expected to be in place by the summer, Torbett said. The discussions come as the UK is trying to play catch up in other areas of the life sciences sector such as clinical trials, which have fallen more than 40% in number since 2017.
(Updates with government response in ninth paragraph.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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