Lots in the media recently about American drug giant Pfizer’s bid to buy Astra Zeneca. It was a pretty amazing story with a purchase price of £60billion or more, which is close to the annual budget of NHS England . Knowing though that the £7bn of drugs sold by AstraZeneca accounts for 2.3% of all British goods exports annually starts to explain why the price tag was high.
Alongside the news stories, commentaries abounded about the commercial, tax and economic implications of this possible deal, and with each article I read I kept thinking “Let’s not forget the patients”. Does it go without saying that the point of drug companies is to make us better, and that they forge ahead in this mission with patients at their heart? Or was the tone of so much writing reflecting a simpler truth: that the point of drug companies – their legal duty, like all businesses – is to make money for their shareholders?
That’s as maybe, but they need us, the patients. At its simplest, they need us to test their drugs. At its more complex – and best – they need us as partners, helping them decide which drugs to tinker with next and why, and they need us to help design trials with them, so that we are then prepared to take part. This is, after all, how cures are found.
Growing and nurturing partnerships with industry, from multi-nationals to small start ups, is one of our commitments at the BRC. A workshop we are running here this week is aimed at getting a better idea of how we can ensure – by hearing from all the players – that the driving forces of business are aligned with patients’ needs and wishes. It’s by no means a new idea – I’ve been having these discussions from different angles all through my career, in research, the charity sector and in journalism – but no-one has yet cracked it.
Whatever happens in the curious world of mergers and acquisitions over the coming weeks and months, what a delight it would be if the conversation we start this week in Oxford helps industry and patients see how best to broker what should be a mutually beneficial union. Read more about it all here soon.