The head of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has expressed fears for the future of medical drug research in the UK.

According to chief executive Stephen Whitehead, the government is putting too much focus on new and breakthrough drugs, instead of gradually improving other drugs that will provide significant benefits to patients.

The comments, which come just before the next round of medical pricing, are the most outspoken on the matter of ‘breakthrough drugs’.

They highlight the threats facing Britain’s pharmaceutical industry since Mr Whitehead became chief executive over a year ago, and acknowledge that the multi-billion pound industry needs to widen its scope when discussing the advantages of these new drugs.

Looking to the Future

The future of pharmaceutical research in the UK rests on the pricing of the drug products. If scientists’ rewards for inventing breakthrough drugs is minimised, then UK pharmaceutical companies are threatening to focus their search for breakthrough drugs abroad.

Mr Whitehead insists that if our pharmaceutical industry starts looking overseas to invest in the latest products, then the UK economy, the British patients and ultimately the industry as a whole will suffer.

Historically, improvements in pharmaceutical development services have been accomplished in small steps. However as the government continues to invest large amounts of money into breakthrough drug research, these small steps are becoming few and far between.

However breakthrough drugs are some of the most important drugs to have ever helped mankind, but it’s not just the people they help that make them special. In determining the effect of a breakthrough drug, you have to look at the way it’s changed the industry too, and how it’s shaped future drugs.
For a drug to become important, it first had to treat a number of people with a variety of problems. Single use drugs that only help a certain amount of people with specific illnesses are important, but not on a global scale.

Secondly, the drug has to inspire further innovation within the pharmaceutical industry, to guarantee the future of medicine and how it helps people.


Investment is the key to medicine, whether its gradual advancements or breakthrough achievements. By rewarding the foundations of the network of medicine the UK has built up over hundreds of years, the small projects that have be constantly invested in will flourish into medical breakthroughs.

Many argue that there’s no point is focusing all pharmaceutical investment on one avenue of research when our already tried and tested method of gradual breakthroughs is doing so well. Of course there needs to be a focus breakthrough drugs and new innovations, however not the amount of focus that could threaten the future of the UK pharmaceutical industry.

Granted the UK is at the forefront of medical research across the globe. Our scientists and researchers produce thousands of drugs every year that help millions of patients with deadly conditions, while also spearheading the fight against untreatable ailments.

However manufacturers won’t take a £1bn gamble on a new medicine unless they’re sure that it’s going to have a high level of success – and the people that dedicate their entire lives to engineer the medicine should be rewarded in relation to the levels of success.

This post was written on behalf of NU Pharma