The Pharmaceutical sector in the UK

The pharmaceutical industry is the biggest sector investor in R&D in the UK accounting for around 24% of total investment by business, valued at £3.2bn, about £9m a day in 2004.  
The industry is a key partner in achieving the plans for increased R&D investment set out in the Government's 10 Year Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 to increase R&D's share of GDP from 1.9 to 2.5% by 2014.

The UK industry has discovered and developed more leading medicines than any other country apart from the USA, and as much as the rest of Europe combined. Around one in five of the world's current 100 best-selling drugs were discovered and developed in Britain.  In 2004, 18% of the world's top 100 prescription medicines originated in the UK. 

In world terms, the UK industry has 9% of pharmaceutical R&D expenditure: only the USA (49%) and Japan (15%) are ahead. The UK is the largest European recipient of pharma R&D, accounting for 23% of total; followed by France (20%), Germany (19%), and Switzerland (11%).

The Industry accounts for around 0.6% of UK GDP, and the UK is one of the world's largest exporters of pharmaceuticals by value.  Industry exports in 2005 were £12.2 billion and created a trade surplus of £3.4 billion.  UK domestic market accounts for 4% of world consumption. Larger markets are USA (43%), Japan (12%), Germany (5%), and France (5%).

The UK is regarded as an excellent business & R&D base by global pharma companies such as Pfizer, Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Sanofi Aventis and Astellas which have invested substantially in discovery, development and manufacturing operations.  The companies are supported by the trade association, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

UK companies GlaxoSmithKline (world no 2 in prescription sales, 2004) & AstraZeneca (world no 6) both have achieved significant global success as creators of wealth and providers of health through exploitation of the UK science base.

In the UK, the industry employs around 73,000 people with about 27,000 in research & development and generates another 250,000 jobs in related industries.  The major clusters for the pharmaceutical industry are found in the north east, north west, south east and east of England. There is also a significant research presence in Scotland.

The Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force (PICTF) (PICTF) brought together Government ministers and senior pharmaceutical industry figures and reported in 2001 to the Prime Minister on further steps to be taken to strengthen the competitiveness of the UK business environment for the pharmaceutical industry.  A high-level government/industry forum, Ministerial Industry Strategy Group (MISG) is developing a long-term leadership strategy to build on the UK's success, and address barriers to growth. This is being done through three workstreams:

  • Developing partnerships between industry and the NHS
  • Improving the business and technology environment for the pharmaceutical industry in Europe; and
  • Developing a regulatory environment in the UK and Europe that serves the needs of all stakeholders.

The UK is active in seeking to improve Europe's  competitiveness for pharmaceutical investment vis-a-vis the US and other countries.

Although competition for investment is increasing, the UK remains a very attractive location for R&D because of the recognised quality of the science base, the availability of high quality staff, the ease of doing business, good communications, market stability, and good dialogue with government.

The sector is also a key collaborator with universities to exploit the science base, and offers about 400 PhD studentships.

Bioscience Unit, Pharmaceutical Team

Sponsorship of the pharmaceutical industry resides with the Department of Health.

The Pharmaceutical team in the Bioscience Unit plays a major role in developing and implementing the Government's innovation and competitiveness policies as they affect the sector, working with DH and UKTI to enhance and promote the competitiveness of the UK. The team develops and maintains strong relationships with companies in the pharmaceutical sector and their intermediaries.  It inputs into the development of government policies which impact on the sector in areas such as the long-term competitiveness in the UK, Europe and globally; R&D & manufacturing investment; Skills; IPR; Regulation; Procurement; Developing countries' access to medicines; European Pharmaceutical Strategy, and the proposed Innovative Medicines Initiative on which it leads in Government; and Inward investment.   The team is actively involved with taking forward the Long Term Leadership Strategy.

By working with other departments and organisations, the team has assisted with attracting key inward investment projects from the industry into the UK.  Recent examples include investments by Amgen, Eisai, Allergan and Gilead.