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Brexit & lack of NHS investment risks Britain’s pharmaceutical industry

Drug companies could join the Brexodus without an extra £20bn investment in the NHS. And Japan warns that Brexit risks future investment in the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.


Launching their manifesto for the upcoming general election, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has warned that drug companies could leave the UK unless the government invests an extra £20bn a year in the NHS. They called on the next government to increase healthcare investment to the G7 average as well as secure global investment for the country’s life science and pharmaceutical industry. The Times reports that health spending in the UK is currently 9.9% of GDP and that increasing it to the G7 average of 11.3% means an extra £20.8bn a year for the NHS.

The NHS itself is already in crisis over a lack of investment and staffing shortages. The pharmaceutical industry’s demand for increased investment does make you wonder why Britain isn’t already spending at least the average of what other G7 countries are spending on healthcare.

Speaking to the The Times, new ABPI president Lisa Anson said patients were already experiencing treatment “rationing” and could also face delays in getting new medicines. Anson added that the financial squeeze on the NHS is a threat to the £30bn life sciences sector. In a statement about their manifesto, Anson said “the general election comes at a critical juncture” and that unless we “ensure Britain continues to be a global player in Life Sciences”, we risk “becoming a desert for healthcare innovation”.

This General Election comes at a critical juncture. Do we want to improve NHS patient outcomes and ensure Britain continues to be a global player in Life Sciences, or run the risk of the UK becoming a desert for healthcare innovation?

Lisa Anson, ABPI president and AstraZeneca UK president

A warning from Japan on Brexit

There was also a warning from Japanese drug companies that Brexit risked future investment in the UK pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical news website PMLiVE reports Japanese drug companies see Brexit as a threat to its investment in the UK. Japanese Pharmaceutical Group (JPG) comprise a host of Japanese drug companies who conduct research and development (R&D) in Britain and have directly invested over £60m in the country last year.

Adam Zaeske, UK & Ireland managing director of pharmaceutical company Takeda, said Brexit could “create challenges” including “reduced access to EU research funding, the need to establish a separate regulatory system and barriers to attracting and retaining talented workers”.

Britain is currently home to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which, as an EU agency, is likely to move when Britain leaves the bloc. Other European countries are already vying to house the agency. Because jurisdiction under the European Court of Justice is one of the UK government’s “red lines” on Brexit, it’s likely the country will no longer have a role in the EMA. This would mean the UK would have to set up a regulatory system and as we reported previously, this could lead to Britain being at the “back of the queue” for new drugs.

Brexit risks delay in Brits getting vital new drugs

Meanwhile, as PMLiVE reports, the Japanese government said that the loss of the EMA to the UK could shift “the flow of R&D funds and personnel to continental Europe”. To make it worse, the Japanese government adds “this could force Japanese companies to reconsider their business activities”.

… the appeal of London as an environment for the development of pharmaceuticals would be lost, which could possibly lead to a shift in the flow of R&D funds and personnel to continental Europe.

This could force Japanese companies to reconsider their business activities.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

You can see a full statement from the Japanese government on Brexit at mofa.go.jp.

Can the The Tories deliver a “strong and stable” NHS? It hasn’t so far and Brexit will make it harder.

The Tories believe the future of the NHS is safer with a Tory government. Its “strong and stable” leadership will see that Britain’s most beloved institution comes to no harm. This is, they say, because a strong NHS needs a strong economy. But despite Britain having one of the strongest economies in the world (at least pre-Brexit, of course), the NHS is in crisis and is spending less on healthcare than the G7 average. And yet, the Tory government is intent on pursuing a Brexit future that endangers the economy.

Its red line on free movement will take the UK out of the single market. Research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that single market membership far outweighs the benefits of a free trade deal with the EU and a host of other countries. And one of the consequences of its red line on the European Court of Justice is that it loses a vital role as part of the European Medicines Agency.

The British economy will be poorer outside of the EU and so will the NHS. It looks as though the UK’s pharmaceutical industry will be too.

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