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All things Pharma

A year in pharma

It’s hard to believe, but as quick as a flash it’s December – which seems a fitting time to reflect on a year in pharma.

Back in January, we asked industry experts to gaze into their crystal balls and tell us what 2018 had in store for the pharma and healthcare sectors. How did their predictions fare? And where are we now? We found out what happened in pharma in 2018.



Jean-Marie Aulnette, Vice President of EMEA sales, TraceLink

The prediction: “The biggest challenge the pharma industry faces is realising the full complexity and resources needed to meet the requirements of the
EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).”

The reflection: “While I am extremely pleased to see most of the National Medicine Verification Systems are now live, a year later I believe the challenges remain. Managing product coding, master data, serialisation and compliance data for products in the European market has been, and remains to be, much more complex than it appeared at first glance.
“A significant number of the EU’s 2,000-plus pharmaceutical companies are yet to complete the European Medicines Verification Organisation’s on-boarding process and develop their connection to the EU-Hub production environment.
“This is a process that could take several months to complete, and it is imperative to compliance. A recent poll from TraceLink revealed that only a very small percentage of pharmaceutical organisations have completed end-to-end testing with at least one National Medicines Verification Organisation.
“An additional concern, as the on-boarding deadline of February gets closer, is the question of whether dispensing organisations, hospitals and pharmacies have put systems in place to connect to relevant national systems, as required by the regulation.”

Community pharmacy

Jane Devenish, Pharmacist, Well Pharmacy

The prediction: “The role and scope of pharmacists is rapidly changing, and the landscape for community pharmacy will continue to change in 2018.”

The reflection: “For pharmacists and their patients, life has been hectic, with further pressure on GP surgeries and other health services meaning our support is needed like never before.
“Updated guidance restricting NHS prescribing of some drugs for minor health conditions has meant many more patients have been seeking advice from their local pharmacy. The extension of the NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Service and Digital Minor Illness Referral Service schemes has seen community pharmacy firmly embedded in the urgent and emergency care pathways, receiving referrals from NHS 111 for provision of urgent medicines or advice on selfcare.
“One significant and positive change has been legislation to give a legal defence to pharmacists who have made an inadvertent dispensing error from a registered pharmacy. That has added weight to a major focus on patient safety. Most pharmacies now regularly produce a patient safety report, reflecting on and reviewing previous incidents or near misses to spot trends, and ensure learnings are embedded.”


Jess Fine, Executive Director, External Affairs, MSD

The prediction: “We believe this country can be well-placed to lead the world in delivering high-quality care for patients. To meet this ambition, however, it is essential that we address some very real concerns.”

The reflection: “Of course, uncertainty caused by Brexit continues. We continue to plan for all scenarios to ensure patients’ medicines supply is not disrupted post-March 2019.
“We sincerely hope the UK and the EU will negotiate a deal that will ensure frictionless trade, encourage scientific research collaboration, enable the industry to employ the best talent from around the world and ensure pharmaceutical regulations are fully aligned between the EU and UK.
“For our sector to flourish it is imperative for our industry that 2019 brings greater certainty and clarity.”

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive Officer, Medicines Discovery Catapult

The prediction: “While the UK will be outside the EU, the industry and the expert opinion remains in the UK, and biology knows no borders. The post-Brexit world does give the UK the potential to carve a distinct role for itself in discovery and early clinical development.”

The reflection: “We see and feel a national community acting with purpose and confidence. We also believe that the UK’s wisdom and capability in this sector is a massive national export opportunity post-Brexit. The need for active research and development, and access to the national infrastructure remains clear.”

“We’re really pleased to see the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy develop with the creation of a new industry and government forum in the Life Sciences Council”

Opportunities for Industry

Jess Fine, Executive Director, External Affairs, MSD

The prediction: “We welcome the Government’s Industrial Strategy which offers the opportunity to deliver a stable and holistic approach to life sciences that recognises the full value of innovative medicines from early stage research all the way through to adoption.”

The reflection: “We’re really pleased to see the Life Sciences
Industrial Strategy develop with the creation of a new industry and government forum in the Life Sciences Council, as well as an implementation board. We are delighted to be involved in both of these and see them as key drivers to delivering a flourishing life sciences sector in the UK.
“For our part, MSD continues to forge ahead with plans to open a new state-of- the-art discovery research centre and headquarters in London. It will house 150 of the world’s brightest and best research scientists, as well as 800 existing employees in clinical and support functions.
“We have already started to build our new discovery team in London and will be using the London BioScience Innovation Centre as an interim base over the next few years whilst we develop our discovery centre.”

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive Officer, Medicines Discovery Catapult

The prediction: “By structuring investment partnerships focused on innovative opportunities, the UK has immense potential to be harnessed through translational centres like the Medicines Discovery Catapult to
create national pipelines of new ideas that move into the clinic.”

The reflection: “UK SMEs, international technology companies and academics are now working under our roof to address the application of more patient-relevant pre-clinical models of disease and improving the disease biology we use to test for new medicines.
“AstraZeneca and innovative technology companies are working with us to industrialise emerging technologies. We have announced the first of a number of major grants with Optibrium to co-develop new artificial intelligence-driven systems that make sense of complex drug metabolism data.
“We are helping match consented patent samples and data with UK innovators and helping biotechnology to access UK public sector capability they did not know was there. At the same time, research charities are engaging with us to develop discovery syndicates. These are new discovery consortia that leverage patient trust, upstream biology and clinical engagement.”


James Roach, Managing Director, Conclusio Limited

Industry partnership in the NHS

“The continued roll out of the Memorandum of Understanding between the pharmaceutical industry and the Greater Manchester local authority is good news.
“Recent work by Health Innovation Manchester and industry partners has shown what is possible when expertise, energy and enthusiasm is combined under a common purpose.
“The continued funding of Academic Health Science Networks is also a positive step forward.
“They now need to be freed to broker the wide-scale engagement of pharma into the innovation and transformation challenges that the NHS is facing.”

Structural change and emerging opportunities

“The development of integrated care partnerships and integrated care systems creates a platform for pharma to transition from supplier to partner.
“This is an excellent opportunity for pharma to deliver services at scale and demonstrate value in terms of therapy optimisation, illness prevention and developing outcomes-focused, efficient services.”

And what didn’t we see coming?

“Well, I didn’t predict a change in health secretary! However, we look forward to working with Matt Hancock in his new role,” concluded Jess Fine.

More from this issue:

Remembering 2018: Changes to the pharmaceutical industry in 2018

Therapy areas of the future


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Amanda Barrell
Amanda is a freelance health and medical education journalist, editor and copywriter. She has worked on projects for pharma, charities and agencies, and has written extensively for patients, healthcare professionals and the general public.


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