At a glance: Britain shows downturn in drug R&D investment

What’s the story? Total expenditure on research and development (R&D) of new medicines by the pharma industry in the UK has fallen for the past two years.

In cash terms, investment remained the same in 2004 and 2003 – around £3.2bn – but that is a two per cent drop in real terms, the ABPI pointed out this week.

And the ABPI is concerned about the fall in investment?
Very much so. Head of media relations Richard Ley tells PRWeek: 'Our job is to help identify areas where we think there is a problem.'

So what is the ABPI doing to raise the issue's profile?
It issued a press release, but public affairs is important here. Through its director of PA Ben Hayes, its lobbying effort focuses on Westminster's ministerial cross-departmental industry strategy group.

It's not just targeting the Department of Health then?
No. The Department for Trade and Industry and the Treasury are important targets too when it comes to putting forward the case for attracting inward investment. The ABPI wants the Home Office to highlight the attacks by animal-rights activists on people in the industry, which it believes could be a small contributing factor to lower R&D investment in the country.

But haven't such attacks halved in number?
It's true that in 2005 damage by activists to company, personal and public property halved year on year. But the ABPI says the number of aggressive attacks has risen. Reports cite use of eight incendiary devices and six attacks causing injury.

Does the ABPI do anything else comms-wise on inward investment?
Every April it highlights trends and statistics from its annual review, and it usually attracts national headlines. One recurring theme is its desire for the drugs industry to avoid further regulation. Director-general Richard Barker says that the UK must not create 'barriers to innovation' that would disquiet investors.

Surely someone is investing in research and development in the UK?
Yes. Only last month, Japanese firm Eisai pledged £75m of investment in a research and manufacturing base in Hertfordshire, while US biotech company Amgen said it will build a European development centre in Middlesex.

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