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For the future of pharma, vote Remain

 DSC0190-2Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), argues ahead of the Referendum that the success of the UK pharmaceutical industry relies on our continued involvement in European Union.

With less than a month to go until the EU Referendum, it would be a fair observation to say both sides of the debate have fought ever ferociously to sway the British electorate on what is the single biggest issue that will define our political, economic and social landscape now, and for future generations.

However, despite a divided debate, the politics of our relationship with Europe have long been decided: the UK has no longing for ever greater union and no desire to participate in a single European currency. What’s more, both of these principles have been safeguarded by the deal David Cameron has brought to the UK public.

Yet, what has increasingly motivated the man and woman on the street, and politicians in this campaign, are real issues that matter to real people. From pensions to mortgages, from job security to national security, these are the issues that resound in the ballot box, and there rightly comes a time to focus minds on how leaving the EU may affect the health and wealth of the nation.

The pharmaceutical industry sees itself as a vital partner with colleagues at the NHS. With so many urgent priorities for NHS leaders and frontline staff, we must now meet the health service halfway to embed innovation and its uptake, and recognise the role we must play in assisting to deliver the Five Year Forward View.

It’s notable that on the value and benefit of European collaboration, our industry and the NHS have long been aligned – and it is without doubt that a vote to leave would have a damaging and lasting impact on all partners with a stake in our national health service.

For the pharmaceutical industry, our argument to remain is fourfold.

Continuing to operate within an established and harmonised regulatory approval system is one aspect, and is vital to the future success of our industry and to the stability of the NHS. As it currently stands, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA), our members have a one-stop shop for centralised licencing of new medicines and treatments across Europe. Operating outside of this system, the NHS would face delays in accessing much needed medical innovation as companies prioritise single-point European regulatory approval in order to reach larger patient populations.

Secondly, maintaining a structure where we can access a global pool of talent, the biggest of which allows free movement of that talent across EU member states, is essential. Both in sourcing the skills required to deliver frontline services, as well as in obtaining the innovative brilliance demanded at the forefront of science and innovation. Employers in industry, the NHS and academia would all suffer a talent drain from leaving Europe.

Thirdly, reformed EU clinical trial regulations are set to create a centralised gateway for clinical trial applications, and once introduced will help maintain the UK’s enviable position as one of the premier European destinations for groundbreaking research. Brexit would not just restrict patient access to the frontline of medical innovation, but also negatively influence the economic growth of the NHS that currently benefits through existing investment in clinical research by industry.

Finally, from new treatments to cure hepatitis C, to revolutionary immunotherapies for cancer patients and novel therapies – which, for the first time, will improve the lives of people with rare genetic conditions – innovation reaching the market in the last few years has been greatly enabled by reaping the rewards of European Union funding for science, research and innovation. With many more potentially 'transformative' drugs in the pipeline, opting out of a system that works to incentivise the creation and development of new medicines would create a funding gap that would need to be filled in order for the UK to continue to punch above its weight globally in all areas of research and development.

Ultimately, the UK pharmaceutical industry wants to work with NHS leaders to provide value as a strategic partner and work together to deliver a world-leading health powerhouse. Whilst the industry is committed to investing in research and delivering new medicines for patients regardless of the outcome on 23 June, only by voting to stay in Europe can we ensure UK patients continue to get the best possible opportunity to receive the right medicines, at the right time.


Roger Taylor   01/06/2016 at 13:02

One the EU is NOT responsibly soley for cross European medical cooperation. Like the EHIC, this is a system which includes non-EU countries so stop your scare tactics on that. Like with Interpol we don't need the bloated, unaudited and self-serving heavy weight of the EU to cooperate in fighting cross border crime. Two we have been "importing" doctors and medics, especially from the Indian continent for generations and long before 1973. Filipinos have kept the NHS and other health carers going also for decades and that would continue. Open borders means a "free" (actually a very expensive and inefficient) NHS attracts all and sundry and the idea an EHIC gives UK people free health care in participating countries is yet another lie form the Remain lie-generating machine. Three, Britain already has a marvellous research system without the EU at all and talk of a "reformed EU" once again is bunkum and you know it. That will continue so long as we don't get a socialist regime intent of inputting more of its Party Members in executive positions as has been the case over many decades now. Under "ultimately" you talk more nonsense! Working in world health and developing and progressing has not one iota to do with being in the EU. Clearly it is in your self interests to remain (a cosy number awaits in Brussels perhaps?) as I see the Remain wheel out many over-paid luvvies, vile and rich folks like Richard Branson, Blair et al who won't be affected by the strain of an expanding, more federal EU and the problems of getting health services and school places like the "real" people of this country will have to deal with.

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