Public Affairs: Drugs giant snares DLA Piper's chief for top job

DLA Piper Global Government Relations deputy MD Pete Digger is to leave his post after three years for a top public affairs role at AstraZeneca.

Digger has been appointed head of government relations and external affairs at the pharmaceutical giant. He will start in March, replacing Darren Murphy who left AstraZeneca last year after just a few months and is now UK MD at APCO.

In the new role, Digger will oversee all UK public affairs, while head of comms and corporate responsibility Amie Malkin is responsible for UK media relations. He reports to legal director Luke Talbutt.

At DLA Piper, Digger's clients have included BAA Stansted, the British Healthcare Trades Association and a range of pharmaceutical companies. Before joining DLA Piper in 2005, Digger held senior posts at Burson-Marsteller and Weber Shandwick. He started his career as a researcher for Tory MP Douglas French.

A key challenge for Digger in the new role will be lobbying the Government over its plans to reform the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme, which sets the price that the NHS pays for branded drugs.

The Government is keen to ensure that taxpayers get better value for money and has been reported as considering a cut of 10 per cent in the price the NHS pays for branded drugs.

But the pharmaceutical industry wants to see higher prices for innovative drugs and much quicker uptake by the NHS of new products, arguing that the UK lags behind other countries in adopting new pharmaceuticals.

There is also concern over the damage that lower prices could do to investment in research and development in the UK.

In a separate development, GlaxoSmithKline comms chief Neil McCrae was recently appointed global head of media relations at AstraZeneca (PRWeek, 30 November 2007).

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