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Urgent measures needed to retain our lead in pharmaceuticals

Europe and the USA have an enviable lead in "Big Pharma", the business of bringing major developments in pharmaceuticals to the market place. However, Asia is poised to catch up. India, for example, long content to build a business on the production of pharmaceuticals for which the patents have lapsed, is now set to carry out its own front line research. Meanwhile in Europe development costs of new drugs are climbing steadily, associated investment risk is rising and fewer innovative products are emerging from company pipelines.

A major conference on the Evolution of the Life Science Industries now being staged by Innogen, a branch of the Economic and Social Research Council in Edinburgh is exploring possible ways forward.

Challenges and opportunities for Big Pharma

R&D investment made by pharmaceutical companies accounts for 39% of all industry spending in the UK, according to Robin Fears, former R&D director of Glaxo Smith Kline. Speaking at Innogen's conference he says the result is "reduction in mortality from infectious, cardiovascular, respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases that were the most frequent causes of death in industrialised countries. But there is industry concern that pharmaceutical R&D productivity is declining, particularly in Europe."

Another speaker at the conference, Dr. Ruth March of Astra Zeneca says, "Pharmaceutical drug development is a lengthy and inefficient process with new drugs failing to reach the market due to issues with efficacy, safety, and what has become known as "pharmacokinetics".

Tufts Centre for the Study of Drug Development reports that R&D costs for an innovative new drug approved in 2001 were $1.1 billion. However, the Centre's Dr. Christopher Paul-Milne, Tufts University feels these costs should and can be brought down. "Analysis shows that improving certain aspects of the drug development process: development times, success rates or early decisions on drug fail
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Contact: Becky Gammon
becky.gammon@esrc.ac.uk
01793-413122
Economic & Social Research Council
22-Feb-2005


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