Novartis Tells UK to Speed Up Drug Approvals or Else

Novartis Tells UK to Speed Up Drug Approvals or Else

November 28th, 2012 // 5:10 pm @


Frustrated by the process in the UK for approving and adopting the use of new medicines, Novartis has arranged a sort of showdown with a group of government officials, scientists and trustees from the National Health Service in which the drugmaker intends to offer a blunt statement – improve the process or investment, and jobs, will leave the country.

The message from the drugmaker will be delivered by Novartis cfo Jon Symonds, who will say that the process in the UK is “haphazard” and, as a result, other countries are gaining a competitive edge and more deserving of R&D investment, The Daily Telegraph reports. The meeting is believed to be the first to gather representatives from these groups on a large scale and among those expected to attend is UK science minister David Willets.

To avoid a loss of investment and jobs, Symonds warms the UK must move faster because the NHS is too slow in helping to arrange clinical trials and granting approvals. “It should be a seamless process but instead it takes an enormous amount of time and energy, during which we lose money,” he tells the paper.

“One of the characteristics of the UK is a very low up-take on innovation,” Symonds says. “Sitting in another part of the business allocating my resources, if we don’t see the up-take in the UK resources will be allocated elsewhere… The placement of research is increasingly globally competitive: we can and must make choices over where we invest.

“In recent years, Novartis (NVS) has made considerable investment decision in Shanghai, Russia and Brazil… One thing these markets have in common is that they have each recognised the need to shift from being a consumer of innovation to a generator of innovation… The NHS seems to treat clinical trials as if they were a departure from the NHS core function – a departure that needs to be compensated with high charges.”

The paper notes that the pharmaceutical industry employs around 25,000 people in R&D in the UK and, overall, a total of 72,000 people. But employment in the UK is under pressure as large drugmakers cut costs in established markets while simultaneously expand in developing markets. Pfizer (PFE) last year closed its only UK facility, taking 2,400 jobs.

“There are a number of challenges that need to be addressed in the UK for it to truly become a destination of choice for research,” Symonds tells the paper. “Generally, the initiatives are there, we need to see them followed through. The government needs to deliver on its initiatives and ideas and make them a reality. Then we can see a virtuous circle – more innovation, investment and research.”

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