Interview with Thomas Thorp, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs, Lilly UK
How relevant is the general election to Lilly in the UK?
Lilly opened its first office outside of the United States here in the UK. That was back in 1934, when there was no NHS. Lots has changed since then, and the run up to this general election has generated an active debate on the future of the health service for patients, for industry, and for the economy.
We now have three sites in the UK, across research and development, manufacturing and sales and marketing. Together with the rest of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK, pharma represents £11.5m of investment in R&D every day. It’s important to recognize our role in the economy as well as to patients, to understand just how important this election is to Lilly.
For industry to continue to invest in the UK, stability and predictability are of the upmost importance. This is relevant to all aspects of the medicine development process; from the wider business environment to a reliable pricing system; patient access and a system that rewards companies’ high risk investment in R&D.
What have been the key healthcare themes debated in this drawn out general election campaign?
Today the UK has one of the best health care systems in the world but we can’t be complacent. Whilst people are living longer, there has been a dramatic increase in the rate of non-communicable disease. 44 million people live with dementia, and this is expected to rise to 75 million by 2030. These are important issues to UK patients and their families today, and we can see this reflected in the current election debate and the promises to protect the NHS.
Innovation offers the NHS a real opportunity to meet the challenge of an increasing demand on resources and squeezed budget. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry as a main player in research, development and innovation, offers the UK a real opportunity to maintain its position on the main stage of scientific discovery and ensure UK patients can access the most innovative medicines. We will be following the outcome of the election closely to see what healthcare commitments come to fruition.
When looking at the current debate on healthcare in the UK, what impact if any is it likely to have on patient access to innovative medicines?
The election debate is an important time to assess how the policy environment can be strengthened to ensure patients and the wider economy continue to benefit for years to come. Political consensus and legal and regulatory certainty are vital to develop a predictable environment that attracts inward investment and ensures UK patients have access to the latest medical innovations. We hope to see the science budget protected and further funding to improve patient access to innovative medicines.
Medicines available in the UK and the rest of the European Union are regulated by the European Medicines Agency, based in London. What are the benefits of Europe, and this European regulatory approach, for the UK?
As an American company investing in the UK, we recognise the European Union brings substantial benefits and the importance of the UK remaining part of the EU. Continuing to remain a member will ensure the UK business environment continues to benefit from a single regulator granting marketing authorization to access the single market, as well as intellectual property protection.
There is also the potential that high quality, ambitious free trade agreements such as the EU-US Transatlantic Trade Partnership (TTIP) could remove red tape and duplication and enhance patients’ rights to access to innovative medicines. These will help further boost economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic, and help drive UK innovation and productivity. As such now is a pivotal time to push forward future growth opportunities.