PM Theresa May wants the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency post-Brexit. She’s essentially arguing that allowing the UK to contribute will be beneficial due to the nation’s prestigious universities and its regulatory body which assesses more medicines than any EU member. Staying in would mean UK patients get faster access to newly approved EMA medicines. But being part of the agency would mean following its rules, paying dues, and possibly being subject to its legal authority via the European Court of Justice instead of national UK courts. That’s a big no-no for May and pro-Brexit factions in the UK, so they’re trying to avoid that part of the deal. British biopharma is behind May’s stance—they still want some cake from this Great British Break Off.
Longtime Insight City readers beware, we really can’t use our normal voice/style for this article. But don’t think we didn’t think about it. Earlier this week UK NHS Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt launched a plan to expand the country’s mental health treatment efforts. And not just any plan. The NHS has committed £1.3 billion to transform mental health services, with a pledge to: (1) treat an extra 1 million patients by 2020 by hiring ~21,000 more workers, (b) provide services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and (iii) integrate mental and physical health services for the first time. Yep, 1.3 billion pounds. That’s like 650,000 tons of money. You do the math. To get you up-to-speed, see the most prevalent mental illnesses in the UK here.
The NHS that’s who. UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled plans to “fast track digital excellence” including a further round of digital excellence centres and “instant access” to a personal online health record. The NHS will select 12 “global exemplars” that could receive up to £10 million to support their pioneering efforts. The plan will also invest heavily in training healthcare workers on how to use digital technologies. One example: A library of NHS-approved health apps to guide patient choice. They will also be advising on other wearable devices, to ensure people can select reputable and effective products to monitor and improve their health. Brilliant.
The UK recently released the first set of data for Disclosure UK, which is akin to the Open Payments data in the US (A.K.A, the “Sunshine Act”). Just to recap, pharmaceutical manufacturers made $6.5B in payments to US physicians for general (i.e., non-research related) and research purposes in 2015. Figures released by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry show drug companies disclosed payments to UK doctors and other health professionals totaling £340m (~$450M USD) in 2015. So what’s the difference? Well, compliance with the UK version is not mandatory. Seriously. Financial Times reports that “doctors receiving the largest share of the money are opting out.” Shocker. That said, we were surprised that 70% of doctors participated. Well done, indeed. Cheerio.
Brexit, “bad news” for UK based Pharmaceutical companies, right? Well, if you consider a £275m (~$360m USD) investment by GlaxoSmithKline bad news, then sure. Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK and proponent of the “remain” vote in June’s EU referendum, said that the company will be expanding each of its manufacturing plants located in County Durham, Angus, and Hertfordshire. The investment is expected to create jobs at these expanded sites, and it can be largely credited to the UK’s competitive tax system. Witty, who said leaving the EU would be a mistake explained that the “underlying attractiveness in terms of the UK’s economic strengths and its fiscal environment haven’t changed and that’s why we feel very strongly that this investment makes sense.”
If demographic stereotypes hold, drug company employees in the UK probably voted to remain in the EU. Makes sense. Conventional wisdom holds that remaining would have been better for business. Now that the vote has gone the other way, a task force of drug company CEOs and government officials has been put together to combat problems such as uncertainty, added complexity and potential drug approval delays. Several large-scale concerns are on the table. Will British patients have to go to the back of the line, behind the EU, for new medicines? Will Britain need to recreate its own regulatory body for the approval and regulation of medicines? Only (a long) time will tell.