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R&D Scoreboard poor gauge of pharma investment in the UK

Published on 08/11/05 at 09:57am


The R&D Scoreboard is fundamentally flawed as a measure of R&D investment in the UK and pharmaceutical companies are continuing to shy away from investing in this country, according to the ABPI.

The industry trade body said the inclusion of GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca's total global R&D spend in the Scoreboard distorts the figures, including spending on facilities outside the UK.

Figures for other companies on the list, Pfizer UK for instance, were purely for money spent in the UK and therefore represent a more accurate picture of spending in the country.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for total pharma R&D spending in 2004 are expected to be published shortly, and the ABPI says these are likely to be a more accurate gauge of pharma investment in the UK.

Our suspicions are that the ONS figures will show a decline in R&D investment in the UK. From our conversations with companies we believe they are preferring to invest overseas, a spokesman for the ABPI said.

The ONS figures from 2003 show that investment in R&D was at £3.2 billion, down by £0.1 billion from 2002 (the first decline in a number of years), and the ABPI fears that the figures will show a further decline in 2004.

The ABPI spokesman said that while the UK had always been an expensive place for R&D investment it had relied on its much superior knowledge and science base to attract investment from companies.

Other countries, noticeably India and China, are catching up fast in regards to offering investment opportunities for pharma companies, the spokesman added.

He said pharmaceutical investment in the UK would not disappear overnight but the real concern would be in 20 or 30 years time, particularly in light of the shortage of science graduates in the UK and the continued scourge of animal rights activity.

Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline have both expressed concern about investing in the UK in the past, but recent R&D investment by Lilly and Genzyme indicate that the country is still attractive for pharma and biotech companies.

Lilly has recently opened a new £26 million UK research facility at its Surrey R&D site and is also committed to spending a further £20.5 million on developing more research facilities.

While expressing concerns about the long-term viability of the science base in Europe, a spokesperson for Lilly said the company would continue to invest in the UK because of the quality of its staff and proven track record of delivering success in the UK.

Scientists are driven by the desire and passion to discover the next breakthrough treatment which revolutionises a disease area. To be able to achieve this, they need the best facilities and this is what we have now in our laboratories, the spokesperson said.

Historically, the PPRS (Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme) has given stability, certainty and fair return on our investments in the UK. The latest round of negotiations resulted in a 7% price cut and it remains to be seen how this will affect future strategy of the company.

The company discovered one of its top-selling products, schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, in the UK and the spokeperson added that the UK had always been an important part of Lilly's strategy.





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