A flourishing UK Life Sciences Sector makes us healthier and wealthier. That’s not just my perspective, but those of the Government who set out their ambition for the UK to become a “scientific superpower”1, The Labour Party recognises this too, putting life sciences at the centre of their economic and health missions, highlighting the pivotal role we can play in achieving the highest sustained growth in the G7.2
But how can we deliver these ambitions when the Government’s own figures show that on certain measures the UK is going backwards? Life sciences foreign direct investment into the UK has declined by 47%3 and numbers of patients enrolled onto commercially – led studies supported by the NIHR dropped by 44%.4 Now more than ever we need to make the case for the Life Sciences industry – whether a global company or emerging biotech. At Sanofi we are committed to delivering this.
Firstly, we need to quantify the value that the life sciences bring. The Government’s own figures show that the sector is worth £94bn to the UK economy, employing 280,000 people.5 Similarly, life sciences R&D has wider economic benefits, including annual tax revenues, cost savings to the NHS, and increased productivity from R&D investment.6
But the value of our industry is so much more than its impact on GDP; our work gives hope to patients with some of the hardest to treat conditions.
In my role as the Sanofi Speciality Care General Manager in the UK and Ireland, I’ve seen first hand the impact that innovative treatments can have across a broad range of therapy areas with high unmet patient need.
As an industry we should be proud of how we deliver for patients, but recognise that currently the policy and regulatory environment makes it harder to deliver in the UK. We live in a globally competitive marketplace for life sciences investment, a fact I have seen first-hand having spent the last 20 years in senior commercial roles across Japan, the US as well as China, Russia and Brazil.
We therefore need fresh thinking to make the UK the most attractive destination for investment and clinical trials, building a more dynamic policy and regulatory environment that keeps pace with the rapid pace of scientific innovation.
Central to this is recognising the value that life sciences bring: we need to stop thinking about spending on innovation as a cost to be incurred, rather an investment in the UK’s future. The level of the current VPAS reimbursement – the voluntary scheme to ensure expenditure on branded medicines stays within an agreed limit– indicates the scale of the challenge we face.
Another example is the challenges around indication based pricing, an issue on which I have worked alongside several BIA members. Currently, the decision-making process requires uniform pricing which means that companies cannot vary prices per indication, making it harder to launch in indications with fewer patients despite the treatment being cost-effective. This risks a situation where patients in the UK are unable to access treatments which are available in comparable countries across Europe, due to the current pricing framework.7
The next 12 months will be crucial in making this case. With VPAS negotiations ongoing and a general election in 2024, we as an industry need to be clear about the value that life sciences can bring. Whilst ambitions for a “science superpower” or G7 leading growth are welcome, the onus is on us to develop innovative and creative solutions to realise this.
At this critical time, industry needs to work together to achieve sustainable positive change for patient care and to improve the health and wealth of the nation. At Sanofi we are committed to realising this.
1. UK Government. Bold new life sciences vision sets path for UK to build on pandemic response and deliver life-changing innovations to patients [Cited September 2023]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bold-new-life-sciences-vision-sets-path-for-uk-to-build-on-pandemic-response-and-deliver-life-changing-innovations-to-patients
2.Labour.org.uk. Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7. [Cited September 2023]. Available from: https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Mission-Econ omy.pdf
3. UK Government. Life sciences competitiveness indicators - Published July 2023. [Cited September 2023] Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-sciences-sector-data-2023/life-sciences-competitiveness-indicators-2023
4. ABPI. Rescuing patient access to industry clinical trials in the UK. [Cited September 2023]. Available from: https://www.abpi.org.uk/publications/rescuing-the-uk-industry-clinical-trials/
5. UK Government. News Story. Chancellor reveals life sciences growth package to fire up economy. Avaliable from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-reveals-life-sciences-growth-package-to-fire-up-economy#:~:text=Life%20Sciences%20is%20one%20of,increase%20on%20the%20year%20before
6. PWC and ABPI. Life Sciences Superpower. Growing the leading global hub in the UK. [Cited September 2023]. Available from https://www.abpi.org.uk/publications/life-sciences-superpower-growing-the-leading-hub-in-the-uk-key-messages/
7. Sanofi Indication Pricing Messaging (September 2023) (Data on file)
Date of Preparation: October 2023