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Drug companies are not villains

10th February 2010

Jonathan Waxman, Professor of Oncology at Imperial College London, says Britain should stop making life difficult for drug companies.

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More people are surviving conditions such as tuberculosis and other ailments once considered deadly because of Big Pharma breakthroughs.

It is the drug companies, not university laboratories, which have been responsible for these life-improving changes.

Drug development is big business, taking on average 14 years and £1 billion to bring a drug to market. That makes billions in profit but also “fuels” the next generation of research.

Britain, however, has created a regulatory environment that makes it harder for them to make money and produce the drugs we depend upon.

The process for approving drugs in the UK is slow, costly and bureaucratic due to a National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) evaluation process which is a "matter of great despair to patients and clinicians".

NICE evaluations are based on a complex formula that attempts to calculate the benefit of a year’s treatment or therapeutic intervention in terms of a year of a patient’s quality-adjusted life (QALY).

The UK market is only about 3.5-4% of global drug sales – and Big Pharma is losing patience with that “process”.

We are already in the position where the UK will be excluded from using new drugs simply because Pharma doesn’t consider us a financially worthwhile market.

But we must not be a "waste-of-time country" for the drug companies. NICE must be overhauled before the regulator ensures British people no longer receive the best medicine on the market.

 

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