Innovation Holds the Key to Improving All Our Lives; the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Outlines How Medicine Holds the Potential to Transform Healthcare and the Lives of Billions

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Innovation Holds the Key to Improving All Our Lives; the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Outlines How Medicine Holds the Potential to Transform Healthcare and the Lives of Billions


When you think about innovation, it's probably in terms of the latest computer gadget - glasses which become television screens or perhaps the potential of space travel for all.

Less recognised - probably because we live it every day - are the innovations in our daily lives, from improved cleaning products to time-saving "apps".

New medicines, which make our lives not only longer, but healthier and safer, most often sit in the nonsexy list of innovations, which belies their value.

Over the last 50-years, within many of our lifetimes, we've moved through a golden age for the development of new medicines.

Many cancers, HIV and even heart disease are now classified as chronic conditions, rather than killers. Advances in vaccination, particularly the eradication of smallpox throughout the world, have arguably been amongst medicine's greatest triumphs.

The term innovation is often defined as something new and original that "breaks into" society, making a dramatic impact.

But this is not always the case. Innovation can be incremental - small steps, which are often frustratingly slow in development and subsequent use.

Some innovations may contain new and exciting science but still not "make it" due to being made in the wrong time or the wrong place.

For instance, the first trainers were manufactured in 1892 by the Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, but did not take off until the 1970s.

This slow uptake, disappointingly, applies to medicines as much as other "good science" ideas.

Innovations which are reserved for rainy days are probably the most frustrating, with the unintended consequences that the inventors are not incentivised - intellectually, emotionally or financially - to fill the gap.

For medicines, the most recent and damaging example is the dearth of new antibiotics.

That gap was recognised over the last 10 years but continued, not because the science was too difficult, but because the regulatory hurdles were high and the projected use low.

There are currently more than 5,600 active products in the global pharmaceutical industry research pipeline. All these developments hold the potential to transform healthcare, and above all, offer the promise of better outcomes for patients: increasing the quantity and quality of life as never before in history.

However, the costs of developing new medicines - including those that fail to reach the clinic or those that are available to patients elsewhere, but do not get funded by the NHS - have increased dramatically over the last four decades, from $199m in the 1970s to $1. …

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