The future of the UK as a world-leading life sciences and pharmaceutical industry hub will be front and centre Tuesday June 19 during a meeting between industry leaders and the government. Particular pressure is coming from the industry ahead the next round of Brexit negotiations for the government to re-develop its strategy around medical services.

On the meeting’s agenda, pharmaceutical industry leaders are seeking a legally binding commitment from the government to implement the industrial strategy developed back in March. There is concern that in order for the UK market to be attractive to multinationals, not only is it necessary to have harmonization across the EU post-Brexit, but a review of the pitfalls in the current strategy are also needed. At present, market access is stifled by timely NHS procedures which result in a long life cycle between the development of new medicines to patient access. PwC reports that a re-consideration of this process alongside a commitment by the government to encourage R&D of new and innovative medicines could bring more than £700m in GDP per year as well as 4,000 industry jobs.

What can be done? It has been suggested that Britain look to the Belgian model. The government’s strategy here has allowed them to achieve the most clinical trials and medicines under development in the EU per head as well as the highest level of R&D expenditure. As a result, Belgium has seen growth in the number of bio-tech companies from two to greater than 120 over the span of 25 years. Another possibility to attract investment would be to extend intellectual property patents. At the minute, China is exploring a six-year exclusivity period for new medicines first released in China as a point of differentiation.

In order for the UK to excel as a top-tier market for pharmaceuticals and to encourage innovation and investment, a strong commitment is needed from the government surrounding the development, adoption, speed and cost-effectiveness of medicines in the UK. The pharmaceutical industry and the patients who rely on it for world-class care are threatened both by the implications of Brexit as well as the flawed medicines regime in the UK. If the UK wants to remain prominent on the global stage, concrete steps need to be taken to both promote its attractiveness and to protect the industry against erosion.

The outcome of this meeting will look to bring clarity surrounding the future of the industry in the UK and the implications post-Brexit.