The story behind the numbers

This week EFPIA produced its annual statistics report. What is the story behind the numbers? What are we seeing as the key trends and, as a new EU mandate takes shape, what are the policy implications of the data?

#WeWontRest in our quest to find new treatments and cures for patients across Europe

Although there are some pretty important economic indicators quoted in the report, the biggest single impact our industry can have is discovering and developing a medicine that a patient needs to improve his or her quality of life, or even save it. And #WeWontRest in our commitment to making Europe a healthier place for everyone. In 2017 the industry invested €35.3 billion in research and development in Europe, employing 115,000 people in research and development roles across Europe. The commitment to discovering and developing new medicines for patients is underlined by the research intensity figures quoted in the report. The pharmaceutical sector invests more of its revenue back in to research and development than any other sector.

What does this mean from a policy perspective? The report shows a 3.8% growth in research and development expenditure in Europe between 2014 and 2018. During the same period, growth in the US was 8.6% and at the same time Europe faces increasing completion from China and the Far East. If Europe wants to be a world leader in medical R&D, its regulatory, incentives, policy and industrial strategy need to match that level of ambition.

We acknowledge the concerns around the affordability and sustainability of healthcare systems under pressure from rising demand, an ageing population and increased prevalence of disease like diabetes, dementia and cancer. There has been considerable attention paid to the cost of medicines within that equation and what does the data tell us? According to OECD figures quoted in the report, the percentage of healthcare expenditure spent on medicinal products and other medical goods has actually remained flat at 19.2% in 2015 and in 2016. In the ambulatory care sector again the cost of pharmaceuticals have remained relatively flat at €133,203 million in 2016 and €133,705 million in 2017. Even though the data shows medicines spending across Europe to be under control, payers continue to struggle with the consequences of introducing new treatments and cures. The costs are often borne upfront, within a single financial year and siloed to the medicines budget yet the value – to health systems in terms of reduced hospitalisations, reduction in other interventions, ability to return to work etc. are delivered over the life time of the patient, across the health systems and to society as a whole. As an industry we want to work with governments, payers, health systems and patients to realise the shared goal of access to new treatments and cures. That will mean new ways of working, new partnerships and a flexible approach to find solutions.

Beyond the pill: Driving Europe’s economy

Our sector is unique in its dual role of transforming the lives of patients and being a significant pillar of the European economy. The industry contributes nearly €91.3 billion to the EU-28 trade balance, the highest by a considerable margin of the tech sectors. It employs 760,795 people across Europe.

There are a host of indicators and data in the report but the underlying messages are clear. The industry is a key partner in Europe’s fight against disease, developing new treatments and cures for patients across Europe. It continues to invest in European research and development but there is significant competition from other regions. It is imperative that Europe remains a competitive destination for medical research and development by maintaining, sustaining and developing a predictable, robust regulatory and innovation-supportive incentives environment. Medicine spending is under control but greater collaboration is needed to manage the introduction of new treatments and cures. The industry plays a key role in Europe’s economic growth. As an industry, we are committed to working with policy makers to create an environment that supports the development of new treatments and cures, that supports patients’ access to those treatments and helps drive the European economy.

Nathalie Moll

Nathalie Moll joined the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) as Director...
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