‘Digital’ drugs a key growth area for UK pharmaceutical sector

Increasing demand for personalised treatments, an ageing population, the rise of new manufacturing technologies and ‘digital’ medicines represent the primary growth opportunities for UK pharmaceutical businesses, according to a new report

UK pharmaceutical sector Health Workforce Wellbeing Medicine Pharma - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The UK pharmaceutical sector must grasp the opportunities developments in technology and medicine offer in order to combat the challenges of an ageing population – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The report, published today (2 July) by Santander and EEF, highlights five key areas for thr UK pharmaceutical sector:

  1. Personalised medicine

The rise of “personalised” or “precision” medicine is reportedly revolutionising the way doctors and pharmaceutical companies approach disease. Using genetic sequencing, medical professionals are now able to separate people with similar symptoms into far narrower groups and target medicines accordingly.

  1. Technology

The possibilities of using technology in pharmaceutical manufacturing are almost endless, with the potential to improve efficiency and reduce costs continuing to evolve. One of the most striking recent developments, however, is the emergence of digital medicine – i.e. drugs with an ingestible sensor embedded in them that records when the medication was taken.

  1. Accelerated Access Pathway

The high costs of developing a drug and getting it to market are prohibitive factors for many manufacturers. The UK government has recognised this and in 2016 commissioned the Accelerated Access Review, which had the ultimate aim of getting the best technologies – be it drugs, devices or diagnostics to patients more quickly and cheaply.

  1. Ageing population

Populations across the industrial world are living longer. According to projections from the ONS, by 2046 a quarter of the UK population will be aged 65 or over, compared to just 18% in 2016 and 14% in 1976. This shift means the need for new and innovative healthcare products will be greater than ever before.

  1. Demand from emerging markets

Emerging markets (including China, Brazil and India) represent a significant opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry. According to BMI Research, pharmaceutical revenues from emerging markets could reach as much as $490bn by 2025, up 227% from the level in 2010.

Paul Brooks, UK head of manufacturing at Santander Corporate & Commercial, commented: “The sector has a number of opportunities for growth both at home and abroad. As we live longer as a society, so the healthcare sector will need more innovative solutions to keep us healthier.

“We will see the rise of a truly personalised approach to medicine and the UK is well placed to take advantage of this, particularly in emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India, as their economies continue to grow.

“Santander can help British companies make the necessary connections in those overseas market and showcase their expertise and innovation through our sector and country specialists as well as with our trade missions and global networks.”

Martyn Jenkins, economist at EEF, said: “The UK pharmaceuticals sector has taken off in recent times, contributing significantly not just to the UK economy but to the health of populations both here and abroad.

“Looking ahead, the sector must grasp the opportunities on offer from the developments in technology and medicine to help combat the challenges of an ageing population, while policy makers must continue to support this vital sector by ensuring the UK business environment is cost competitive, trade links are retained and the longstanding productivity issue is addressed.”