Forbes director warns of pharma sector uncertainty

A senior healthcare PRO has expressed concern about the state of the pharmaceutical industry amid talks of an impending recession.

Packer Forbes MD Alexa Forbes spoke to PRWeek as she announced a partnership deal with consumer agency Golin Harris last week (PRWeek, 21 February).

'The healthcare industry is pretty recession-proof, but the drug companies are nervous at the moment,' said Forbes. 'There are fewer drugs making it through to licence. It is a difficult environment as pharma companies become increasingly regulated and not as much money is being spent.'

The comments were made as a survey found that the pharmaceutical sector has lost confidence in the UK as a place to do business.

The survey was co-commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the Confederation of British Industry.

It found three-quarters of the 100 UK-based pharma firms questioned had little confidence in the current environment: 83 per cent expect business to deteriorate, while only one per cent believe it will improve.

The survey also found that the number of UK clinical trials was expected to drop by nearly half.

Most of the companies surveyed (97 per cent) said there was increasing uncertainty in the UK pharma market.

Weber Shandwick UK MD of healthcare Lucie Harper argued that the PR industry is in a prime position to support the pharma sector through its challenges. 'Regulations, shrinking pipelines and corporate reputation are some of the challenges the industry faces,' said Harper. 'The PR industry needs to come up with new strategies and approaches. We need to start moving away from programmes that target the masses and move towards a more focused approach.'

Tim Scorer, director of health PR agency Hive, echoed Harper.

'We are not seeing wholesale uptake of newer drugs,' he said. 'The downsides of free healthcare are showing across Europe, with newer medicines being rationed. Healthcare comms teams seem to concentrate on driving prescriptions through healthcare professionals, rather than optimising end product use. If they did, there would be better health outcomes, better compliance, and better sales.'

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