ABPI launches new health partnership team

 The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has launched a new regional partnership team to build relationships with the NHS.

The team of five industry professionals will work with the SHA clusters to develop regional partnership projects and promote patient access to innovative medicines.

At the ABPI’s annual conference in London, where the new team was announced, ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead placed emphasis on the role of partnership in supporting medical innovation.

The role of the partnership team builds on the recommendations of the Government’s Innovation Health and Wealth report to improve the adoption and diffusion of innovative medical products and services.

The team will consist of five experienced industry professionals: one for each of the four SHA clusters in England and a fifth to provide strategic oversight. They will work to promote innovation and healthcare improvement at a regional level, not specific companies or products.

Stephen Whitehead said the partnership team would “make an invaluable contribution to the work of the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry”.

He added that “I firmly believe partnership working is the future of healthcare in the UK,” and predicted the new initiative would “signal the beginning of many more projects” in which the industry and the NHS would work together to improve healthcare.

“We are pleased to support this new initiative and we look forward to working with our partners in the pharmaceutical industry to encourage the adoption and diffusion of new medicines that help improve the lives of patients,” commented Mike Farrar, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation and a longtime champion of joint working.

“In our ongoing work with the ABPI and ABHI, I have witnessed first-hand how working as a team can deliver significant patient benefits above and beyond what can be delivered by any party in isolation. That is why I am firmly behind greater partnership working.”

Whitehead also placed the new partnership in the context of a drive to ensure that the NHS embraces innovative medicines as part of the solution to the crisis of increasing need and shrinking budgets.

In a memorable statement, he told the conference: “Generic medicines do save us money, but it is innovation that saves lives. We have to be careful not to focus on cost saving when we should be focusing on patients. The effective use of innovative new medicines can often reduce costs elsewhere in the healthcare system by reducing the need for expensive primary and secondary care.

“In fact, with diseases like Alzheimer’s placing an increasing burden on NHS resources, the development of new medicines by the pharmaceutical industry will be pivotal in not only fighting disease but ensuring the financial burden they impose doesn’t cripple the healthcare system.”

Recent figures, he said, show that NHS spending on new medicines is rising at a much slower rate than its spending on generics. The NHS will save £3bn from 2010 to 2014 due to patent expiry – but if those savings are not reinvested in innovative medicines, both the industry and medical care will be held back.

He concluded: “If we do not create the right environment for innovation in the UK, we will run the very real risk of failing to develop treatments which address the challenging disease burdens we face in the future.”

Whitehead’s statement strongly backs up the industry strategy of beating the recession through pipeline development (recently voiced by the leaders of GSK and Eli Lilly), calling on the NHS and other health provider systems to look beyond cost-cutting to the value of better healthcare.