The impact of Brexit on the pharmaceutical sector Contents


73.The pharmaceutical sector in the UK is primarily a mix of UK, EU and USA-headquartered companies and one of the most productive and successful sectors in the economy. As part of the wider life sciences industry, the sector has enjoyed support from successive governments who have recognised its importance to society and the economy. The UK’s pharmaceutical sector is heavily integrated into the European market, not least with a significant and influential role in an established and respected regulatory system. Although the UK has a disproportionately large role in regulation and in research and development for European medicines, the size of the European market heavily outweighs that of the UK. As a result, manufacturers are unlikely to prioritise the UK over the EU as a market, and UK manufacturers are already spending tens of millions in contingency planning to access EU markets because of uncertainty. The UK must seek the closest possible regulatory cooperation and the minimum border friction possible to ensure the continued success of the industry. The European Commission has a responsibility to set out their position, to ensure there is no fragmentation of a closely integrated industry that is working to the benefit of patients across Europe.

74.We sought out any potential benefits to the UK pharmaceutical sector from Brexit, but found that any small gains would be hugely outweighed by additional costs or the loss of access to existing, successful markets. The potential for speedier approval of medicines is outweighed by the risk of no access at all to other products. The potential for weaker intellectual property regulation is outweighed by a potential loss of investment in the UK. The potential for stronger intellectual property protection is outweighed by the potentially huge costs for the NHS and harm to the generic pharmaceuticals sector. The potential for change to how we conduct clinical trials is outweighed by the loss of access to huge number of participants across Europe. The potential for new, untapped markets simply does not exist in an already global sector in which the UK is highly engaged. The best potential approach we found for the UK to grow as a world leader in the development, manufacture and regulation of pharmaceuticals is to maintain as close a relationship with the EU as possible.

75.We found no-one involved at a senior level in the sector who was prepared to make a positive case for Brexit for pharmaceuticals. The sector has nonetheless been engaged and realistic since the decision to leave the EU was taken. They have made coherent proposals for the sustainability of an important and influential UK sector, many of which we have echoed in this report. We welcome the positive engagement demonstrated to date from both the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and their departmental Ministers. In her Mansion House speech, the Prime Minister set out a positive and compelling case for continued cooperation between the UK and EU on medicines. The Government must now translate words into actions that protect the UK’s status as a world leader for pharmaceuticals.

Published: 17 May 2018