The Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness
29. Despite its continuing success during the 1990s,
there were increasing concerns about the competitiveness of the
UK pharmaceutical industry that were voiced at a meeting in November
1999 between the Prime Minister and the Chief Executive Officers
(CEOs) of AstraZeneca, Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.
The CEOs argued that the traditional factors that underpinned
the UK's past success in pharmaceuticals were no longer sufficient
to guarantee good performance, and that an initiative was required
to ensure the UK retained its competitive edge. They expressed
particular concern about difficulty in getting their products
to the UK market, and intellectual property protection. This led
to the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness
Task Force (PICTF).
30. The overall aim of PICTF was to look at ways
of ensuring that the UK remained an attractive location for the
pharmaceutical industry, with specific reference to international
competitiveness, the free movement of medicines within the EU
and European licensing of medicines, the UK as a site for R&D
(including partnerships with academia) and the NHS as a location
for clinical studies. The group was co-chaired by Lord Hunt, then
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, and Sir Tom
McKillop, CEO of AstraZeneca, with equal representation from Government
and the industry.
31. PICTF published a report in March 2001 that proposed
specific measures and commitments by Government to assist the
UK pharmaceutical industry. It also defined 'Competitiveness and
Performance Indicators' for the industry, to be recorded and published
each year to assess trends over time. These indicators provide
the objective data to underpin assessments of how well the UK
is performing in the key areas that are crucial to its competitiveness
as a location for pharmaceutical companies. 
The main indicators of value proposed all related to economic
gains rather than health benefits:
- Proportion of world first patents
filed for marketed new drugs divided by proportion of world R&D
- UK-based companies' number of 'global top 75'
new active substances; and
- Percentage of world pharmaceutical R&D spend.
32. The first set of indicators was published in
March 2001 and the most recent set was published in December 2004.
They show that the UK currently has:
- A pharmaceutical industry that
contributes significantly to the UK economy;
- A comparatively strong scientific research base;
- An impressive record of pharmaceutical innovation;
- A relatively rapid regulatory process for medicines
compared to other countries; and
- Relatively slow uptake of medicines by prescribers.
33. Under PICTF, it was agreed that there should
be close joint working between Government and the industry on
the National Service Frameworks (NSFs) that set standards for
the NHS in clinical priority areas. The report also identified
the potential for greater use by industry of NHS information,
building on existing systems such as the General Practice Research
34. The 2001 report resulted in the creation of the
Ministerial Industry Strategy Group (MISG), which now meets on
an ongoing basis. In addition, the Healthcare Industries Task
Force (HITF) was created to examine "issues of mutual interest
in the healthcare sector".
35. These measures indicate the importance of the
pharmaceutical industry and the Government's desire to respond
to its needs. However, questions have been raised about the Government's
excessive focus on ensuring the competitiveness of the industry,
to the disadvantage of the NHS and patients. These issues are