Science Career Pathways

Pharmaceuticals

Data from more than 30 developed countries shows that since 1950 the probability of surviving past 80 years of age has doubled for both males and females. More than half of babies now born in the UK and other wealthy nations will live to 100 years, researchers say.

Essentially the pharmaceutical industry has excelled in taking basic research and turning this knowledge into treatments. The UK is one of the largest pharmaceutical markets in the world. Records show that between 2004 and 2008 the number of prescriptions written in the UK increased by 22.1% to an estimated 1,025.7 million, while the value of prescriptions increased by 3.4% in the same period to £10.3 billion. The leading therapeutic areas in 2008 were the cardiovascular system, in terms of the number of prescriptions written, and the central nervous system, in terms of value.

The UK is one of the leading pharmaceutical producers and exporters. It is home to two of the sector’s largest companies and a large number of smaller world class companies specialising in R&D and biotech products. The Pharmaceutical Industry is a key driver in the UK economy, a top performing technology sector, underpinned by a strong academic pipeline. Pharmaceutical research is a long, expensive and risk ‘challenged’ process. It takes an average of 13 years before a newly synthesized chemical entity passes through the development pathway and becomes available for prescription. The chances of a newly synthesized molecule passing the regulatory process are no more than 1-2 in 10,000, the average costs related to research and development for these entities has been estimated at more than £685 million (€ 1 Billion). The costs   associated with Pharmaceutical R & D by UK based companies (2007) were estimated at £4.45 Billion (€6.5 Billion), with the UK ranking number one in Europe where the total expenditure was put as £17.8 Billion (€26 Billion).

The Pharmaceutical industry is the technology sector with the highest value added per person employed and also the sector with the highest ratio of R & D investment to net sales. When it comes to manufacturing the UK is ranked third out of 30 European countries in terms of value of Pharmaceuticals produced – £15,700 million (€22,860 million). France is number 1 with £23,500 million (€34,300 million), with Germany is ranked 2, with £17,950 million (€26,200 million). The Pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in generating export revenues, in 2007 this equated to £14,560 million (€21,300 million) against an import value of £10,270 million (€15,000 million). Employment within the UK Pharmaceutical sector is put at 67,000 (2007), with a significant number being high value added jobs (e.g.  Clinical science, university derived).

For more information visit the Association of British Pharmaceutical industries (ABPI) website.

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