Leaders in the UK life sciences industry have shown their concern about the UK’s position as a centre for global pharmaceutical research and development. There is still a feeling that government could be doing more to support the industry, while doubts persist about value based pricing and how it will fit within a new broader pricing system.

These are the findings of The UK Life Sciences Leaders’ Survey 2011, an annual research report sponsored by RSA, the leading global life sciences executive search and interim management specialist, which aims to provide a summary of attitudes in the life sciences sector and insight into key priorities for the industry. Top issues for leaders in the sector were:

  • The NHS reorganisation
  • Medicine pricing and reimbursement
  • Employment issues and the cost of research

Commenting on the survey results, Nick Stephens, CEO of RSA said: “These are challenging times for the UK life sciences industry as it copes with a host of issues including NHS reorganisation and new commercial arrangements. Moving forward, government urgently needs to do more to ensure that education, regulation, access to medicines and the NHS research base align to support the industry’s continued contribution to the UK economy in this field.”

Stephen Whitehead, CEO of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said: “The survey indicates that we need to do more to support biopharmaceutical companies and the NHS in creating an environment where innovation, in all its forms, can be allowed to thrive. There is much that the government has done to support the industry, particularly through the Growth Review and the Office for Life Sciences. But we need to build on this as part of a continuing relationship with NHS and government to explore how unnecessary bureaucracy can be eliminated from the healthcare system so that new treatments can reach patients as quickly as possible.”

This is the second annual survey produced by RSA. It provides an overview of current perceptions and how they have changed over the last year. The survey focuses on key areas for the industry including research and development, regulatory affairs, supply chain and manufacturing, and marketing.

Back in 2010, the general feeling was optimistic. Leaders believed that the new government would improve the overall business environment. In the survey, the industry seemed to focus on three key messages for government:

  • The UK was not competing effectively in the global marketplace
  • There was a need to create the right environment for early phase/smaller companies
  • And finally, as a country, the UK was failing to make the most of its unique selling proposition (USP); namely the NHS and a talent for innovation and discovery.

Four key issues stood out above the rest:

  • The escalating cost of operating in the UK
  • The reorganisation of the NHS and the implications on research and development
  • The regulatory burden on operations and the journey from development to market approval
  • Fiscal and tax incentives to enable small companies to grow and for the UK to compete globally.

The overall message coming out of the 2011 survey is that the general feeling of optimism has declined to an even split between the quite optimistic, quite pessimistic, and the indifferent. The general consensus seems to be that UK competitiveness has deteriorated and the government could be doing more to create the right environment for life sciences to prosper.

  • The cost of doing business in the UK has continued to rise and may be driving business offshore to emerging and lower cost markets. Key cost areas included: clinical trials, employment, materials, transport and manufacturing
  • Reorganisation in the NHS is creating challenges for life science industry leaders as are key issues such as the future medicines pricing systems and changing models of engagement
  • Regulatory burden – both UK and EU – was cited as one of the top three issues for preclinical research and development, clinical research, and for medical departments in general.

This year’s survey provides an interesting insight into issues and concerns around the medicine pipeline and proving value. At least half of those that answered the question on value-based pricing believe it will reduce market access and lead to the UK falling behind as an early launch market. In contrast, health technology assessments are broadly welcomed as a means of enhancing value and meeting therapeutic needs.

Given these challenging times, our survey also asked what life science organisations needed to do in order to weather the storm. The answer was: innovation, creating flexible organisations and processes, and refocusing research and development.

If they could wave a magic wand, life sciences leaders would put the focus on investing in research and development and making the UK healthcare sector, regulatory and commercial environment better aligned to achieve positive outcomes for patients and the pharmaceutical industry.

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