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Brexit has brought with it the opportunity to transform the UK's life-sciences sector

Dominic Pivonka, Director of Market Access

Dominic Pivonka, Director of Market Access | AbbVie

3 min read Partner content

If the UK is going to position itself as a global destination for medical innovation, we must embrace and support cutting edge technology and widen access to world-class standards of care.

The UK has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, demonstrating the power of our scientific and research base. However, when it comes to medicines, research published by AbbVie has found that England can fall behind its EU neighbours in the speed they are made available for use in the NHS.

If the UK is going to position itself as a global destination for pharmaceutical innovation and successfully create an NHS ‘fit for the future’, it will be pivotal that we embrace and support cutting edge technology so that all patients in the UK have access to world-class standards of care.

AbbVie is committed towards supporting patients to access the future of better care, quicker, and in just the last few years has invested more than £50m into UK R&D, and in 2020 more than 2,000 patients were participating in our clinical trials across the NHS.

So how can we ensure that this world-leading R&D is harnessed to elevate standards of care in the UK? As science advances and exciting new treatments start to emerge, this is a challenge facing system leaders around the world. 

Last year, AbbVie published “Bridging the Gap” which set out to find solutions to support the UK to be ‘future fit’; identifying steps healthcare providers and industry could take to overcome the unnecessary delays patients face in accessing innovative medicines. This independent research explored the gap, or delay, for medicines that are given early regulatory approval, but where uncertainty on early trial data can slow the Health Technology Appraisal; the process by which medicines are approved for use in the NHS. Our research found that the UK often lags behind other countries and it is encouraging that NICE and NHS England have recognised these challenges and are introducing reforms to the system.

However, there remain opportunities to create a more innovation-friendly environment by improving the utilisation of data and exploring alternative and flexible approaches to the reimbursement of medicines. 

It is pivotal that we embrace cutting edge technology so that all patients have access to world-class standards of care

In recent decades, medical advances have transformed outcomes for people with some of the most complex conditions. We now understand more about the complexity of disease and can create medicines that are far more effective and targeted.

These advances have seen some of the Global Regulatory Agencies, including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), respond by adapting the way they approve new medicines, particularly in areas of unmet need, which in turn, creates challenges for the healthcare system.

The pathway for developing innovative medicines and devices is currently supported by programmes like the Early Access to Medicines Scheme and the Accelerated Access Collaborative. These are welcome initiatives, but the whole system needs to evolve to present an agile pathway which pulls the most important innovations through.

Brexit has brought with it the opportunity to transform the UK life-sciences landscape. AbbVie welcomes the MHRA’s Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway and hopes this goes some way to align the different elements of the development pathway, but this must be married with flexibility in assessment and reimbursement systems to facilitate our shared aim of ensuring these innovations have a positive benefit on the lives of patients.


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