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A Japanese pharmaceutical company has said the UK’s tough rules on medicine approval is an important factor in opening its European headquarters in London.
As the government promotes its life sciences sector to foreign investors, Isao Teshirogi, president and chief executive of Shionogi, told the that the UK’s stringent standards on the safety and price of medicines was a decisive factor because it would help prepare his company for similar obstacles elsewhere.
“Pricing and how to value compounds after launch are very important,” he said. “The world economy will face tough issues. The experience from Europe of how to value drugs is useful. The US, Japan and even China are reviewing their approaches.”
His argument points to the impact in the UK and, increasingly, further afield of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The medicines advisory body argued against National Health Service use of a number of expensive innovative drugs because they were judged not cost effective.
The Shionogi European office will initially employ only 15 staff this year, but marks a symbolic victory for the UK, as other European countries step up their courtship of pharmaceutical companies with a range of tax breaks and other incentives to stimulate investment and employment.
A senior British official involved in bringing Shionogi and other foreign investors to the UK said that an argument he used was the availability of a good pool of skilled labour because other pharmaceutical companies had shed staff .
David Slater, director of foreign direct investment at London & Partners, the City Hall-funded promotional organisation, said: “You can say we have very well trained people on tap.” He said that while other European countries could offer attractive venues for small offices, they had more problems providing specialist labour as companies expanded.
Mr Teshirogi stressed the UK’s traditional strength in medical research was also an attractive factor. He said US academics, by contrast, had been “spoiled” by a “money-driven” culture.
David Cameron, the prime minister, hosted a pre-Olympics health policy summit at the start of this month, highlighting initiatives on funding, tax breaks and making all patient data available for industry research.
However, Rick Stewart, a biotech entrepreneur, said: “We have a legacy of innovation in biotech, but that tradition is being emasculated. We are squandering our heritage.” He called for greater government efforts to help companies identify funding and connections to medical researchers.
Executives at GlaxoSmithKline, the UK’s largest drug company by market capitalisation, have argued that while the government promotes the country’s life sciences industry abroad, it hinders exports by also promoting Nice’s expertise elsewhere. This has the effect of putting the brakes on their medicine sales in other countries, they say.
The UK has attracted a number of investors from Japan, China and India to open offices in recent years, offset by significant job cuts by large companies including GSK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.