Improving access to medicines could create thousands of jobs

15 August 2017

PwC Strategy& analysis for Pfizer

The UK has a vibrant pharmaceutical and life sciences sector which makes a significant contribution to the overall health and wealth of the nation. The UK industry is responsible for discovering and developing many of the world’s medicines, is worth £15.7bn to the economy and employs around 312,000 people. Much is now at stake as the UK is looking to strengthen its life science sector as it prepares to leave the EU. We were asked by Pfizer to understand and analyse the key factors that make a country globally competitive in life sciences - in part, as a response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy, but also at this key moment in the Brexit negotiations.

We believe that competitiveness requires top performance across many factors but, after interviews with a number of sector leaders, we identified three as the most important:

  • academic & leading edge science;

  • workforce & skills ;

  • access to new medicines.

We benchmarked the UK against France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the US and found that the UK achieves excellence in academic & leading edge science and workforce & skills. However, we identified a significant lag in patient access to new medicines. In fact, UK patients accessed significantly less new medicines by volume in the first year of launch compared to patients with the same diseases in the benchmark countries. This trend was consistent in products with and without NICE recommendations and across disease areas. This is, of course, bad news for the patient but it is also a lost opportunity. We estimate that if access were improved, up to 4000 new, highly skilled UK jobs could be created by 2021 (many in R&D) and £705m added annually to the economy. This is in addition to the obvious health and welfare benefits of faster access to treatments. 

Improving access is complex but there is opportunity for the UK to enhance its competitive edge to benefit patients, the NHS, and the economy. By agreeing a shared aspiration to improve patient uptake of new medicines, a range of approaches can be explored. These could include the adoption of innovative pricing models, implementation of the Accelerated Access Review, or multi-year NHS budgets. Achieving this will require greater collaboration across industry, the NHS, Government and patients.


Jo Pisani | Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Consulting Lead

Email |+44 (0)20 7804 3744

View David's profile on LinkedIn


Rachel Armstrong | Senior Manager

Email | View Rachel's profile on LinkedIn




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