Whilst Pfizer are saying that their closure of their Kent-based research site is due to internal changes in priorities it highlights both fundamental changes in the approach to drug research and development (R&D) and the urgent need for the UK government to know how to keep companies in the UK.
In order to build confidence in the UK, questions we need to be acting on the answers to as soon as possible include:
- How quickly can we implement Sir Michael Rawlins’ report to encourage growth clinical trials in the UK?
- We are still one of the lowest spenders on medicines of the OECD nations and our spend has been falling since 1994 according to their data – why aren’t we doing more to encourage the use of new drugs?
- What is being done to encourage pupils to study science at A level and beyond to ensure an adequate workforce?
- What are the barriers to universities developing new chemical entities and forming SMEs to commercialize them and enable re-investment?
- Has anyone done the work on the longer term costs of research moving East? Costs will rise in India and China over time. Is there a period over which we can predict we should offer more incentives in the UK, knowing that eventually what we can offer here will be overall better value than can be found in the East?
- Drug R&D is hugely expensive and risky and companies say that the UK is one of the most expensive countries in which to undertake it. Why – and what can we change?
No doubt the Budget will be seeking to stimulate growth, but that is 7 weeks away. Unequivocal, public decisions need to be taken now based on what we already know to ensure we retain, attract and develop our pharmaceutical base in the UK.