Select Committee on Health Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (PI 35A)

  As requested at the pharmaceutical industry's oral evidence session on the 13 January, the ABPI would like to submit additional evidence in response to specific questions raised.

  The additional evidence is focused on the following three areas:

    (1)  Statistics regarding chemistry teaching in schools and higher education, the basis of our concern with regard to the supply of key skills to the bio-pharmaceutical sector.

    (2)  The comparative cost of clinical trials in the UK, an area where we need to be globally competitive.

    (3)  Pharmaceutical industry employment figures, focused on the issues raised by the Committee—the balance between R & D and sales resources.


Chemistry in Schools—GCSE Level

  About 81% of students take a "double science" GCSE—studying biology, chemistry and physics. Some teachers and HE lecturers argue that this does not provide a suitable basis on which to study A-levels in science. About 11% of students follow only a single science course which is not regarded as a sufficient basis for going on to study any science subject at A-level.

  Fewer than 10% of students study two or three separate science subjects at GCSE, with only 7.9% taking Chemistry GCSE in 20041.

Chemistry in Schools—A level

  Both the number of entries in chemistry and the percentage of students have dropped in recent years. Just over 20 years ago, the number taking A-level chemistry was 47,792 but by 2004 had dropped to 37,254 (4.9% of total A level entries).

Chemistry teachers

  The number of teachers employed to teach chemistry alone in secondary schools has more than halved since 1984. The vast majority of science teachers are also expected to teach biology and physics as part of a "combined" science course.

  It is calculated that approximately 8350 chemistry teachers are required to cover teaching at GCSE and A-level, whereas only 4,680 teachers in maintained schools have a degree, PGCE or BEd in chemistry. The estimated shortfall of 3,670 teachers must mean that large numbers of students are being taught chemistry by teachers without a qualification in the subject.2.

Chemistry in Higher Education

  Applications from UK students to study chemistry have been declining steadily over the past 10 years and the total number of graduates in chemistry has decreased from 4,144 in 1996 to 2,955 in 2003.

  In the past 18 months, Kings College and Queen Mary in London, Swansea, Exeter and Anglia Polytechnic University have announced closure of their chemistry departments. Others are known to be contemplating closure. In addition, De Montford University, Leicester admitted its last intake of students in 2002. A major factor in this trend is that if the chemistry department has a Research Assessment rating (RAE) below 5, then funding provided by the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) to support research infrastructure is significantly reduced. At Exeter, the Vice Chancellor was reported to have said that the income per member of staff in the chemistry and biology departments was £20,900 per year, whereas in physics it was £46,200 per year.

  In addition, the decision by HEFCE to reduce the funding multiplier paid to universities to support teaching in laboratory-based subjects has been reduced from twice the amount given for lecture based subjects to 1.7 times.

  The pharmaceutical industry generally recruits graduates who have completed an MChem or MSci in the chemical sciences for their chemistry research and development departments. In 2002, there were 1150 such graduates3. The geographical distribution of these courses is not uniform. In 2003, whereas 10 universities in the Midlands offered MChem/MSci courses in chemical sciences, in Eastern Counties and the South, only two did4. With the recently announced closure of Swansea's chemistry department, Wales will also only have two institutions offering these courses.

  BPI does not believe that allowing these random decisions to close chemistry departments, which result in large areas of the country with no high quality chemistry department, is in the national interest. We would welcome recommendations from the Committee to reverse this trend.

  A policy is required, driven by Government and by HEFCE, that will lead to co-operation between universities to ensure an adequate supply of chemistry teachers, courses and graduates, in which regional needs are met within a national framework.


  The costs of phase II-III clinical research in the UK have increased since 1995, and significantly exceed those in competitor countries, although the rate of growth may now be slowing.

  The following slides illustrate the average yearly cost increase for conducting clinical research in the UK, as well as comparative costs of Phase II-III studies across all therapeutic areas for selected European countries.

  It will be clear from the above data that the UK is the most expensive country in Europe in which to conduct trials, and that overhead allocation is a major factor. The ABPI is calling for:

    —  Transparency in the pricing of general overheads.

    —  Elimination of charges for standard care.

    —  The NHS to comply with NHS costing initiatives (due to be launched 28 February 2005).

  We would welcome recommendations from the Committee to ensure our continuing global competitiveness.


  In the Committee's deliberations it was frequently stated or implied that the UK industry employs more people in selling than in researching and producing medicines. The opposite is the case. The most recent employment figure (2003) we have for the industry is 73,000. Of this figure, 29,000 work in R&D, and 20,000 are involved in the manufacturing process. By contrast, the industry has 8,000 medical representatives. The remaining 16,000 people perform a variety of functions including corporate affairs, finance, marketing, and human resources. Even adding a proportion of the figure for marketing to the number for sales representatives, this element of the workforce is substantially exceeded by scientific and technical personnel.

15 February 2005

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