Britain’s pharmaceutical industry invested a record £10 million a day in the search for new medicines last year and generated a best-ever annual trade surplus of £3 billion to help the UK’s ailing balance of payments. At the same time wider use of innovative medicines by the NHS, particularly for cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health have saved thousands of lives. But we still spend twice as much as a nation on both holidays and alcohol than on medicines. Figures released by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) in its 2003 Annual Review show:

• Investment in UK research and development topped £3.5 billion – nearly £10 million a day.

• Pharmaceutical companies account for nearly a quarter of all UK business R&D.

• 25 of the world’s top-selling 100 medicines were discovered and developed in the UK, more than any other country except the USA.

• Exports by the industry reached a record £11.8 billion and a trade surplus for Britain of £3.1 billion over pharmaceutical imports.

• Jobs in the industry increased to 83,000 and generated another quarter of a million in the wider economy.

• Sales to the NHS rose to £9.5 billion a year yet continued to represent only 12 per cent of total NHS expenditure.

• In real terms, NHS medicines prices are more than 15 per cent lower than ten years ago.

• The average prescription now costs the NHS around £11, while a day in hospital costs an average £200.

• As a nation we spend 40p per person a day on medicines but 76p on holidays and 88p on alcohol.

“Britain remains near the bottom of the international league in terms of spend on medicines and use of the latest modern treatments. This is a record of investment and achievement that is unmatched by any other industry in Britain and in which the UK is truly a world leader,” said Dr John Patterson, President of the ABPI. Our medicines have proved a world-class success and are absolutely key to the future of the NHS in its ambitions to become a world-class service. I am delighted to see many more thousands of patients lives are being saved or improved by medicines as a result of our discoveries and improved treatment within the NHS. But there remains much more that could and should be done to ensure all patients benefit from the use of modern medicines. Postcode prescribing across the UK continues to be a major problem and our place in the international health league is still low.” Latest international data shows that spend on medicines accounts for 0.88 per cent of GDP in the UK. Countries such as France and Spain spend 1.34 per cent, Italy 1.12 per cent and Germany 1.02. A survey of ten leading industrial nations around the world puts Britain one from bottom in the use of the latest medicines launched in the past five years.

The enormous progress in the treatment of coronary heart disease (CHD) announced by the Government’s report on the National Service Framework for the disease is applauded by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The report, Winning the War on Heart Disease, reveals that deaths from cardiovascular disease fell by more than 23 per cent between 1995/97 and 2000/02; and eight in ten heart attack patients received life-saving thrombolysis treatment within thirty minutes of hospital arrival in 2003, compared with less than four in ten in 2000.

Welcoming the report, and the huge strides that have been made in cardiac services, ABPI Director of Medicine Dr Richard Tiner said: “The pharmaceutical industry is at the forefront of developments which continue to play an important part in these improvements. This highlights the fact that investing in medicines is frequently a life-saver. For example, more than 1.8 million people – over 3 per cent of the population – are now receiving statins for lowering cholesterol levels and that number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that this is saving about 6-7,000 lives a year, as well as reducing the number and severity of heart attacks. “Also, the development of medicines to help people give up smoking are making a great contribution to saving lives as well as reducing the cost of more expensive health care,” said Dr Tiner.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) applauds the targeting of the Government’s extra £100 million research and development funding per year by 2008 on research into the treatment and cure of Alzheimer’s, stroke, diabetes and mental health, as well as developing new medicines for children. “This is excellent news for clinical research in general as well as these priority disease areas,” said Director General Dr Trevor Jones. He also welcomed the creation of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), which will bring together the NHS, Medical Research Council, medical charities and industry to speed up the development of new medicines and treatments. “This investment in collaboration and partnership means more patients will benefit from the latest scientific and medical advances, and will give more patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials,” said Dr Jones. The extra funding will be used to:

• fund specialist research into the three most common diseases affecting older patients – Alzheimer’s, stroke and diabetes;

• bring together existing paediatric research centres to deliver faster progress in developing medicines for children;

• expand the research network within the National Institute of Mental Health for England.