Written evidence submitted by Pfizer (PEG0084)


  1. Introduction and Overview


1.1.        Pfizer welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this important inquiry concerning the UK’s economic recovery in the post-COVID environment.


1.2.        Pfizer has around 2,500 colleagues across five sites in the UK, contributing to over 100 collaborative projects around the country and conducting 54 clinical trials involving over 2,000 patients last year.[1] 


1.3.        As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, building resilience, enhancing sustainability and kickstarting economic growth will be critical if the UK is to boost its competitiveness, increase its share of global investment and become, as the Prime Minister described, a “science superpower”. To achieve this, Pfizer believes that the Government should prioritise:



1.4.        Beyond these actions, the Government should use this unique moment to challenge the conventional view of health as a cost to be borne, rather than a critical investment in the prosperity and growth of the country. As a global biopharmaceutical leader, Pfizer is committed to playing its part and we will bring forward more ideas and research on this topic in the months ahead.



  1. What core/guiding principles should the Government adopt/prioritise in its recovery package, and why?


2.1.        The first area the Government should prioritise in its recovery package is enhancing the innovation ecosystem for life sciences in the UK. COVID-19 has thrown a new light on the value that innovation brings not just to patients and population health, but to national wealth as well. Creating the right framework for innovative companies to conduct science and discover the breakthroughs that change patients’ lives is therefore vital.


2.2.        A key aspect of this innovation ecosystem centres on clinical trials. The extraordinary challenge of COVID-19 has necessitated leaving orthodoxy and traditional practices behind. This has been clearly demonstrated through the RECOVERY trial, which was established in the UK at speed. This entrepreneurial spirit should be harnessed so that the UK can become a global hub for translational science and next generation clinical trials.


2.3.        Specifically, there are opportunities to streamline the current system and introduce new initiatives to further increase the attractiveness of the UK as a place to conduct innovative clinical trials. Our five big ideas for policy change are:



2.4.        Secondly, the Government should take urgent action to address challenges in the systems and processes that enable UK patients to access new medicines. We have the opportunity now to embrace this debate through the NICE methods review, the creation of the Innovative Drugs Fund and the publication of the Five Highest Health Gain areas. Pfizer and the broader industry would welcome a discussion with Government on the level of ambition in each of these areas and identify how we can support the NHS to become innovation-ready.


2.5.        Moreover, in recent months industry took unprecedented steps to help manage pressures on the health system by reducing the need for some patients to receive treatment in hospitals, which included participating in one-time tenders for innovative medicines. These steps were taken as a result of the crisis situation and must not serve as a precedent for future access to patented medicines, which would send a strong anti-innovation message to global boardrooms and go against the principles and spirit of the Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS).


2.6.        Thirdly, despite the strong existing base of life sciences activities in the UK, the country faces challenges in terms of its perception as a place to invest and do business. Through the upcoming Spending Review, the Government should enhance the UK tax and fiscal ‘offer’ to strengthen its position as a place to invest in medicines manufacturing and R&D.


2.7.        Specifically, the Government should consider implementing the following changes:



2.8.        Fourth, Pfizer echoes findings in the CBI’s policy paper, “Principles for a low-carbon, sustainable and net-zero aligned economic recovery post COVID-19”, which calls for the prioritisation of public spending programmes and policy reform that can deliver the environmental benefits necessary for transitioning to a net-zero carbon economy. As the paper highlights, the private sector will play a key role in achieving this ambition and Government should ensure that appropriate support is offered to industry as the economic consequences of COVID-19 begin to materialise. This includes fostering a climate of innovation that allows companies to alter business practices in a more sustainable way and improving the resilience of supply chains to better manage external shocks.


2.9.        Finally, to enhance efforts to kickstart economic growth and level-up development across the country the Government should prioritise the ‘Three T’s’ – namely Talent, Transport and Trade:




  1. Whether the Government should prioritise certain sectors within its recovery package, and if so, what criteria should it use when making such decisions? What conditions, if any, should it attach to future support?


3.1.        When considering a recovery package, the Government should reflect on the potential for growth in sectors, the value of skills the sector brings, and the possible increases in inward investment and exports that a sector can generate.


3.2.        Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the close link between the health of our people, our healthcare system and the economic prosperity of the UK. In previous years, it has often felt like our national conversation treats healthcare primarily as a cost to be borne rather than what it really is: a key driver of productivity and UK competitiveness. The Government should consider how to use this unique moment to create a new consensus that seeks to realise the full value of healthcare as a critical national asset to be nurtured and cherished.


3.3.        There is strong evidence to demonstrate how healthcare and the economy are inextricably linked. In the wake of COVID-19, the Government should move towards an approach that views health, and healthcare expenditure, as a critical national asset. A number of steps need to be taken to achieve this, including the creation of a new Health Index to bring parity between health and GDP. This would help assess health in a holistic way and thereby capture the return on investment for the economy from healthcare spending, allowing the Government to track progress over time and fundamentally shifting the nature of our national debate about the value of health.



  1. How can the Government best retain key skills and reskill and upskill the UK workforce to support the recovery and sustainable growth?


4.1.        As referenced in a previous question, the Science Industry Partnership (SIP) produced a series of recommendations in their paper “Life Sciences 2030 Skills Strategy”, which Pfizer strongly encourages the Government to adopt in due course.


4.2.        These recommendations focus on four themes, namely:



4.3.        In addition, the Government should consider how it can support life sciences companies in promoting the value of STEM subjects to young people. At Pfizer, we have developed a number of programmes to give students a greater understanding of the processes involved in developing medicines and the importance of innovation to sustaining a healthy population:


4.4.        Finally, as referenced in the CBI policy paper Principles for a low-carbon, sustainable and net-zero aligned economic recovery post COVID-19, there are significant employment opportunities in green and low carbon jobs. Creating these opportunities will require policy change and public spending initiatives in low carbon infrastructure, as well as the availability of relevant Government-backed (re)training schemes for businesses to take advantage of.



  1. Is the Industrial Strategy still a relevant and appropriate vehicle through which to deliver post pandemic growth?


5.1.        Yes. The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy set out a vision to deliver future growth for the sector and highlighted opportunities for the UK to build on its strengths in order to remain globally competitive. Although not all policy recommendations from both versions of the Strategy have been implemented, it is clear that the framework of bringing industry, trade associations, academia and Government together to discuss opportunities for boosting the sector has worked well.


5.2.        Indeed, the Life Sciences Council provides a critical forum for strategic, high-level dialogue between Government, industry and the NHS on how to improve the ecosystem for the benefit of patients and UK Plc. The Government should seek to maximise the opportunities that this forum, alongside others such as the Patient Access to Medicine Partnership, offer in order to fully exploit the role that the life sciences sector can play in driving growth in the post-COVID environment.


5.3.        We understand that work is now underway to refresh the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in light of COVID-19. We believe that the ideas and recommendations outlined in this paper can form part of that assessment and Pfizer will continue to engage with Government, the NHS and the wider industry to strengthen the sector and boost its economic contribution to the UK’s recovery.



  1. What opportunities exist for the UK economy post Brexit and the pandemic for export growth?


6.1.        To increase opportunities for export growth, Pfizer recommends that the Government prioritise two areas:



July 2020

[1] More information about Pfizer UK can be found at https://www.pfizer.co.uk/pfizer-uk