Improving access to new treatments could extend lives
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UK: Improving access to new treatments could extend lives and boost economy – Report


According to research by PwC for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), improving access to new treatments could transform patient outcomes and deliver a huge productivity boost for the economy. The research looks at the benefits for 13 medicines across four treatment areas – stroke prevention, severe asthma, type 2 diabetes and autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. Key findings include: 

  • An estimated 1.2 million additional NHS patients are eligible for, but are missing out on, these medicines 
  • In aggregate, extending the use of these medicines would provide patients with more than 429,000 additional years living in good health (QALYs) 
  • £17.9 billion in productivity gains would accrue to the UK economy 
  • £5.5 billion of which would be paid directly back to the exchequer through taxes from increased paid labour productivity. 

 According to the ABPI, these productivity gains “would more than offset the incremental costs of increased uptake”. Indeed, increasing the use of medicines for severe asthma would bring the biggest gain to the economy, with an estimated £9.6 billion to be gained by the economy in productivity.  

The report goes on to highlight that the UK spends considerably less on pharmaceuticals per capita than nine of its peers. For every £100 in GDP, the UK spends 81p on pharmaceuticals. This compares to £2.35, £1.94 and £1.84 spent by the US, Germany and Japan, respectively.  

According to the report, low investment in the latest medicines has compounded existing challenges with research showing that patients in the UK have lower survival rates for conditions including cancer, COPD and stroke than patients in similar developed countries. Indeed, analysis from 2016 shows that UK patients had 50% higher years of life lost due to ischemic heart disease than France or Spain. Moreover, analysis from 2020 shows that NHS patients are 15.1% less likely to survive for five years after a colon cancer diagnosis than are patients in Australia (the best performing country).  

The report underlines three challenges to address to improve patient outcomes and ensure the UK remains a priority launch market for new medicines, namely:  

  • Breadth of access: Between 2015-2019, of the positive recommendations made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 43% have been limited to narrower populations than recommended by the UK or European regulators. According to the report, this is largely due to the UK applying the lowest willingness-to-pay thresholds for health gains of any developed country.  
  • Speed of access: From licensing to first use of a new medicines in the NHS, the average wait time is almost 11 months (335 days) compared to 120 days in Germany.  
  • Extent and rate of uptake: The UK per-capita use in the first five years post launch is 65% of the average of 15 comparator countries.  

Commenting on the research, Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the ABPI, said, “The evidence is clear; providing patients with the medicines they are eligible for will help people live longer, healthier lives, while growing the economy and increasing tax receipts for the government.  

“Investment in medicines is already creating more efficient and effective health services in countries around the world, resulting in better health outcomes and improved survival rates. We should be striving for the same”.  


  1., “Eligible NHS patients missing out on new medicines that could extend lives and add £billions to the UK economy”, 13th May 2022 
  2., “Transforming lives raising productivity”, May 2022

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