An ageing population, emerging markets and the rise of 'digital' medicines to drive growth of uk's pharmaceuticals sector

Increasing demand for personalised treatments, an ageing population, the rise of new manufacturing technologies and ‘digital’ medicines (drugs with an ingestible sensor embedded in them), are some of the primary growth opportunities for UK pharmaceuticals companies according to a new report from Santander and manufacturing organisation EEF1.

The five key areas for growth are:

  1. Personalised medicine
    The rise of “personalised” or “precision” medicine is revolutionising the way doctors and pharmaceutical companies approach disease. Using genetic sequencing, medical professionals are now able to separate people with similar symptoms into far narrower groups and target medicines accordingly.
  2. Technology
    The possibilities of using technology in pharmaceutical manufacturing are almost endless, with the potential to improve efficiency and reduce costs continuing to evolve. One of the most striking recent developments, however, is the emergence of digital medicine. Digital medicine, or digital pills, are drugs with an ingestible sensor embedded in them that records when the medication was taken.
  3. Accelerated Access Pathway
    The high costs of developing a drug and getting it to market are prohibitive factors for many manufacturers. The UK Government has recognised this and in 2016 commissioned the Accelerated Access Review, which had the ultimate aim of getting the best technologies – be it drugs, devices or diagnostics to patients more quickly and cheaply.
  4. Ageing population 
    Populations across the industrial world are living longer. According to projections from the ONS, by 2046 a quarter of the UK population will be aged 65 or over, compared to just 18% in 2016 and 14% in 1976, meaning the need for new and innovative healthcare products will be greater than ever before.
  5. Demand from emerging markets
    Emerging markets (including China, Brazil and India) represent an exceptional opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry. According to BMI Research, pharmaceutical revenues from emerging markets could reach $490 billion by 2025, up 227% from the level in 2010.

Paul Brooks, UK Head of Manufacturing at Santander Corporate & Commercial said: “The sector has a number of opportunities for growth both at home and abroad. As we live longer as a society, so the healthcare sector will need more innovative solutions to keep us healthier. We will see the rise of a truly personalised approach to medicine and the UK is well placed to take advantage of this, particularly in emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India, as their economies continue to grow. Santander can help British companies make the necessary connections in those overseas market and showcase their expertise and innovation through our sector and country specialists as well as with our trade missions and global networks.”

Martyn Jenkins, Economist at EEF said: “The UK pharmaceuticals sector has taken off in recent times, contributing significantly not just to the UK economy but to the health of populations both here and abroad.

Looking ahead the sector must grasp the opportunities on offer from the developments in technology and medicine to help combat the challenges of an ageing population, while policy makers must continue to support this vital sector by ensuring the UK business environment is cost competitive, trade links are retained and the longstanding productivity issue is addressed.”


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Notes to Editors
1 The EEF and Santander Pharmaceuticals Sector Bulletin can be downloaded at from Monday 2 July.

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