The term ‘pharmaceuticals’ is used collectively to encapsulate the institutions, departments, and people whose major activity is R&D of therapeutic products, which includes contract manufacturers, contract service organisations, and pharmaceutical wholesalers (as defined by the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills). This is not restricted to any particular technology, but does not include medical technology, medical biotechnology (i.e. biologics),
or industrial biotechnology. Major clinical applications for pharmaceuticals include cancer, pain management, diabetes, hypertension, infection, and many others, which place a huge social and financial burden on Wales, as well as global health. These challenges will be best addressed with an integrated pharmaceutical R&D programme of the type that Wales is well placed to deliver.
In general, the pharmaceutical sector is a high-risk, high-value industry. It drives economic growth through ‘multiplier effects’ for employment, personal income, gross value added (GVA) and tax revenue, which also generates products that clearly benefit society and human health. For example, it has been shown that each job in the pharmaceutical sector provides almost double the average salary in the overall economy. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies
invest more than ten times the amount of R&D per employee than manufacturing industries overall. Research and development lies at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry, which invests more than any other industrial sector in the UK, with up to approximately £11.5 million spent every day.
Wales has competitive strengths in the pharmaceutical sector that span university, NHS and industrial sectors. Particular strengths lie in drug discovery, clinical trials, and pharmaceutical services. Key anchor companies in Wales specialise in manufacturing and service provisions for ‘big pharma’, including cold chain logistics, manufacturing, drug delivery and clinical trials. These could synergise well with the universities, NHS-led research and local SMEs to offer robust foundations for the rapid expansion into the R&D community. Furthermore, Health Research Wales has identified opportunities to promote services of Welsh companies, universities and clinical trial units abroad.
Drug development is a global enterprise which has become concentrated into a small number of large multinational companies. This industry is at a crossroads with a common experience that the massive research costs are not always returned in the rate of development of new drugs; as a consequence ‘big pharma’ is withdrawing and downsizing in many areas including some which are considered areas of major unmet needs. There is a crisis in drug development for many important clinical fields. As a consequence, we are moving into a new era, where research collaboration and commercial outsourcing are the norm. Wales has never been a core part of the global pharmaceutical industry, and this global change in pharmaceutical strategy presents opportunities, rather than threats, for Welsh life sciences. Industrial sector activity in Wales relevant to pharmaceuticals encompasses sub-sector activity in contract drug development and manufacture. These will benefit from the development of new technologies and the need for large companies to outsource.
Wales has key strengths in the pharmaceutical sector which make it competitive on the world stage. Although this is the case, stakeholders shared concerns regarding a lack of sector knowledge throughout each of the Focus Groups.
In order to bring more pharmaceutical activity, a range of activities need to be supported through policy and initiatives, including international marketing, NHS Wales clinical access, medicines adoption, academic research translation, and recruitment, retention and training.
1. INTERNATIONAL MARKETING
Wales has considerable strengths in pharmaceutical manufacturing and providing clinical services. This is a key enabler for pharmaceuticals across the university, NHS and industry sectors and is the basis for strong therapeutics. Unified support to market these strengths internationally is required to grow the sector.
2. NHS ENGAGEMENT AND CLINICAL ACCESS
This enables efficient delivery across the community, primary care practices and hospitals. One of the unique selling points for Wales is that the NHS is devolved and fully integrated, with only ten NHS organisations, (seven regional Health Boards and three NHS Trusts). A major stepping stone in the drug development process is engaging with lead clinicians to guide pharmaceutical research and development, especially when executing regulated clinical trials. Steps need to be taken to incentivise and promote clinical research at the institution and individual levels within NHS Wales.
3. MEDICINES ADOPTION
Poor uptake of new drugs in the UK in general, but Wales in particular, is becoming a significant barrier to Wales’ involvement in forthcoming commercial trials. NHS Wales and the All Wales Medicine Strategy Group should take into account first and foremost the impact on the patient (e.g. safety, efficacy) and cost-effectiveness to Wales, but should also consider the impact of their decisions regarding medicines adoption on the broader economic impact beyond healthcare budgets.
4. SECTOR KNOWLEDGE
Academic research translation: Wales has a few strong case studies for translation of pharmaceutical innovations into commercial spinouts, e.g. Protides at Cardiff University. Nonetheless, the best pathway to commercialisation of a product or service is not always clear. Translation of pharmaceutical-related academic research into commercial products in Wales appears to require a cultural change. A greater level of academic, NHS Wales and industry
collaboration needs to be forged.
5. RECRUITMENT, RETENTION AND TRAINING
Recruitment, retention and training: A key driver for future success is the ability to attract and retain highly skilled individuals. Whilst the university sector can focus on the development of training and education in key skills, retention requires growing the life sciences cluster to provide sustainable employment opportunities across NHS Wales, academia, and industrial partners.