Just because the life sciences {industry} is getting vocal about the way it’s faring, given the prospect of getting to pay again the federal government 30% of NHS branded medicines gross sales in 2023, and because it wants to barter a brand new deal on branded medicines pricing and entry that can apply from 2024 onwards – there’s been extra discuss in regards to the Life Sciences Council (LSC). The LSC is a discussion board for government-to- {industry} dialogue and it final met on the 28 November 2022 with particular visitor, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Yet, particulars on the LSC stay sparse, no less than within the public area. Leela Barham requires extra transparency on the LSC when it’s wanted most.

Life Sciences Council

Do you already know in regards to the Life Sciences Council (LSC)? You’d be forgiven in the event you haven’t heard about it as a result of there’s little about it within the public area. That’s both an oversight or maybe extra cynically, by design. (You can select after you’ve learn this.)

The LSC has a web site on Gov.uk, however the web page says Life Sciences Council. Yes, that’s it. That’s all you could find out. (Ironically, it’s additionally bought the ever present ‘Is this web page helpful?’ query. I’ve answered that with a convincing ‘no’ a very long time in the past, however no motion was taken).

LinkedIn and Twitter chatter

Whilst the federal government web site is quiet on the LSC, LinkedIn chatter about it has picked up in latest days.

Axel Heitmueller, managing director at Imperial College Health Partners, posted earlier than the Council met on 28 November 2022, suggesting that the Council assembly ought to ship out a powerful message from the federal government that innovation will probably be on the coronary heart of healthcare restoration.

A post from the director of well being and life sciences at Innovate UK, Richard J Hebdon, additionally bigged up the information earlier than the Council met about four health missions. The authorities is committing £113 million to most cancers, psychological well being, weight problems, and habit analysis.

Perhaps most notable of all, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s LinkedIn account posted in regards to the assembly on 29 November. The submit stated it was good to fulfill Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health, Grant Shapps, Business Secretary, and Will Quince, Minister of State for Health, in addition to leaders from the well being sector. By 5.18 pm on 29 November, that submit had generated reactions from 6,884 individuals, led to feedback from 262 individuals, and had 62 reposts.

The BGMA posted about their chief exec Mark Samuels attending the LSC and discussing the 4 well being missions, too.

The LSC has been tweeted about prior to now. Matt Hancock, previously Health Minister, tweeted in regards to the LSC assembly on 10 May 2021. He described it because the “holy trinity of Government, academia, and {industry}.” Tweets had been additionally posted by Richard Torbett, at the moment chief govt on the ABPI, in addition to Kwasi Kwarteng, on the time Secretary of State at BEIS. That appears to be it, although; no different tweets about LSC had been discovered.

The problem with these platforms in informing individuals about simply what the LSC is all about displays their very nature: they’re advert hoc and may restrict element.

Life sciences lobbying

That PM Rishi Sunak joined the LSC assembly on 28 November is probably going an indication of how life sciences have gone up the federal government’s agenda.

Hard to know, however maybe that displays lobbying in latest months from the {industry}. There are considerations about funds due below VPAS, predicted to be within the area of 30% of branded medicines gross sales to the NHS for 2023. There are additionally clear warning indicators in regards to the state of the sector within the UK; the ABPI pointed out that the UK is falling behind worldwide rivals for the manufacture of life science merchandise, as well as NHS sufferers dropping entry to modern remedies because the UK {industry} scientific trials face collapse. That was simply in November alone.

Who’s who on the Council

The Council has been round since 2018, first meeting on 16 May 2018. Back then it was chaired by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt. From {industry} was Pascal Soriot, chief exec at AstraZeneca, as co-chair, alongside representatives from J&J, MSD, and the {industry} physique, the ABPI.

When the federal government is shy, there’s at all times the choice of sending a freedom of data (FOI) request. An FOI was despatched to the Department of Health and Social Care in September 2022 (so, nicely forward of the latest uptick in chatter in anticipation that there can be extra to speak about between the federal government and the sector within the run-up to the negotiation of the VPAS).

An FOI response reveals the present membership (see field). Useful to know for individuals who need to get involved. (As an apart, it should now be normal observe to depart the names of these from the federal government unspecified, I assume since you by no means know who submit holders would possibly really be when the LSC meets, given latest turmoil in authorities).

Box 1: Current membership of the Life Sciences Council


1.     Secretary of State DHSC (authorities co-chair)

2.     Secretary of State BEIS (authorities co-chair)

3.     Sir Pascal Soriot (CEO AstraZeneca, {industry} co-chair)

4.     Minister of State for Health DHSC

5.     Minister of State for Business and Industry BEIS

6.     Amanda Pritchard (Chief Executive, NHS England)

7.     Rosalind Campion (Director, Office for Life Sciences)

8.     Professor Sir John Bell (Life Science Champion)

9.     Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser (CEO, UK Research and Innovation)

10.  Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar (Director, Wellcome Trust)

11.  Dr Richard Torbett (Chief Executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry)

12.  Peter Ellingworth (Chief Executive, Association of the British HealthTech Industries)

13.  Steve Bates (Chief Executive, BioIndustry Association)

14.  Phil Thomson (CEO, GSK)

15.  Haruo Naito (CEO, Eisai Co Ltd)

16.  Paul Hudson (CEO, Sanofi)

17.  Giovanni Caforio (CEO, Bristol Myers Squibb)

18.  Jean-Christophe Tellier (CEO, UCB)

19.  Dr Nerida Scott (Regional Head Innovation and EMEA, Johnson & Johnson)

20.  Neil Mesher (CEO and SVP UK and Ireland, Phillips)

21.  Sam Roberts (CEO, NICE)

22.  Rt Hon Professor Lord Darzi of Denham (Chair, NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative)

23.  David Bickerton (Director General for Business Sectors, BEIS)

24.  Professor Lucy Chappell (DHSC Chief Scientific Advisor, DHSC and CEO, NIHR)


Source: DHSC FOI response, 30 September 2022

It’s additionally clear how attendees differ from the checklist, because the BGMA isn’t on the membership checklist, neither is the PM.

Terms of reference

The council’s phrases of reference haven’t been discovered by means of desk analysis. Instead, there are hints from different paperwork which might be printed by the federal government about simply what the LSC is there to do.

The 2018 publication of the 2019 Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS) made point out of the LSC. VPAS promised additional improvement of strategic engagement between VPAS members and their consultant our bodies and HTA physique, NICE, and NHS England, the largest purchaser of specialized medicines within the UK. This engagement was to be aligned with current preparations, and that’s the place the LSC got here in, in addition to sub-groups of the Council. (As an apart, it additionally name-checked the NICE Implementation Collaborative – no matter occurred to them? It additionally talked about the Accelerated Access Collaborative, which continues to be round.)

So, who’re the sub-groups? That’s tough to search out out about too. There’s one which has popped up in desk analysis, the Patient Access to Medicines Partnership (PAMP). As a results of a parliamentary question, it’s potential to search out out its said objective: “a discussion board for strategic, high-level discussions on United Kingdom pharmaceutical and medicines entry coverage.”

There’s a number of overlap with the LSC membership – however, regardless of the entry focus, none from the devolved nations – but, there may be one member that stands out: the Charity Medicines Access Coalition. That’s as a result of it’s the first-time affected person representatives are given a voice in these circles, the Coalition having ten well being charity members and chaired by Alzheimer’s Research UK.

More element on PAMPs discussions come from the BioIndustry Association (BIA), which coated a PAMP assembly on 9 May 2022 in an overview of its work to affect and form the sector. According to the BIA, the discussions coated the way forward for life sciences within the NHS, early entry pathways just like the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), the Innovative Licencing and Access Pathway (ILAP), the Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF), Project Orbis, and the NICE strategies and course of evaluation. Quite the assembly!

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Update, printed in January 2020, updating on the second Life Sciences Sector Deal from 2018, additionally mentions the LSC. It stated that the federal government would proceed to work with the sector by means of the LSC to ship the imaginative and prescient of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.

In July 2021, Life Sciences Vision (the comms individuals have to be operating out of recent methods to say the identical factor) promised that phrases of reference for the Life Sciences Implementation Board (LSIB) – which sits below the LSC – can be refreshed. Desk analysis has not discovered something to indicate what, if something, was executed consequently.

Meetings no less than every year

The FOI additionally requested for agendas overlaying the LSC conferences since 1 January 2019 (to coincide with the beginning of the present VPAS).

Agendas shared as a part of the FOI response counsel that scorching matters had been as observe (conferences that they had been mentioned at are in brackets):

Brexit/future relationships with EU/Trade and worldwide alternatives (May 2019, June 2020, November 2020, May 2021)
UK fiscal incentive panorama (May 2019)
Sector Deal/Life Sciences Strategy/Innovation for progress/Life science sector imaginative and prescient (May 2019, June 2020, November 2020, May 2021, November 2021)
Accelerated Access Collaborative (May 2019)
UK business setting/working setting (June 2020, May 2021)
Pandemic (November 2020)
UK entry and uptake (November 2020)
COP/Net Zero (May 2021, November 2021)

Make of those what you’ll; arguably, what they present is (but extra) comms creativity referring to the identical factor in numerous methods. It additionally reveals how industry-focused the discussions are, with entry and uptake getting one slot in November 2020. That may very well be uncharitable; perhaps it got here up in different discussions, too. The bother is that the substance of discussions isn’t potential to see due to two causes.

The first is that the DHSC stated that “DHSC is refusing your request for minutes below the provisions of part 14(1) of the FOIA. Section 14 permits a public physique to refuse a request for data if the request is vexatious. It is essential to notice that the DHSC isn’t claiming that you simply, because the requestor, are vexatious, nevertheless, DHSC believes the request itself is vexatious” (my first vexatious FOI request!).

DHSC added “DHSC believes that this a part of your request is a burden on account of having to carry out a evaluation of the minutes for every assembly. We think about that doing this might place an unreasonable burden on DHSC as every set of minutes would require a evaluation to verify if remarks included had been exempt from launch below the FOIA and we will be unable to course of your request as at the moment drafted.” Makes you surprise simply what these minutes embody, doesn’t it? Or may or not it’s that conferences had been extra of a moist squib and never a lot was stated?

The second is that papers which might be referred to within the agendas aren’t accessible within the public area both.

Replacement for MISG

Those who’ve been round lengthy sufficient know that it’s not novel to have a discussion board for presidency – and crucially bringing each industrial and well being coverage collectively – to fulfill with life sciences leaders. The Life Sciences Council replaced the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group (MISG).

MISG nonetheless has a authorities website that units out the membership, phrases of reference, agenda, and minutes in addition to contact particulars. It’s even potential to go additional again and entry extra from archived net pages. It begs the query of why there is no such thing as a comparable transparency in regards to the LSC?

Public curiosity?

There will probably be those that ask – rightly – does it matter if all the small print of the LSC are solely identified to a couple ‘insiders’? It does. Life sciences and its impression on the individuals of the UK is greater than is represented by the good and good which might be on the membership checklist. Not least, tackling entry challenges for sufferers – at present’s and tomorrow’s – must be essential to everybody.

A Council is a realistic answer when it might be not possible to get work executed if everybody with an curiosity was there – that’s why there are consultant our bodies like ABPI and others who’re members. But isn’t there a public curiosity in what these discussions cowl and the work that flows from it? Experience with MISG reveals that sharing extra within the public area about how authorities works with life sciences might be executed. The authorities must do higher on the Life Sciences Council.

About the writer

Leela Barham is a researcher and author who has labored with all stakeholders throughout the well being care system, each within the UK and internationally, on the economics of the pharmaceutical {industry}. Leela labored as an advisor to the Department of Health and Social Care on the 2019 Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS).


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By Seth A. Dunbar

Seth Dunbar leads clinical research study operations and quality & compliance. He is experienced working with teams to help drug sponsors better leverage eSource data. With 10+ years of experience Seth brings expertise developing eClinical services that integrate data and technology to help companies optimise study execution.

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