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Irish pharma sector must attract R&D to secure competitve edge, says PCI

By Gareth Macdonald , 18-Mar-2010
Last updated on 18-Mar-2010 at 09:13 GMT

Ireland must become an R&D hub as well as a drug manufacturing destination to prosper in the increasingly competitive global pharmaceutical market, says industry body PharmaChemical Ireland (PCI).

The group made the call at the unveiling of its “Innovation and Excellence” strategy document at the annual Drug, Chemical and Associated Technologies Association (DCAT) meeting in the US this week.

PCI said that, whileat present Ireland is a key global drug and active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) suppler, impending blockbuster patent expiries mean the manufacturing sector will soon have to compete with countries where production is cheaper.

Ireland cannot compete directly with low-cost economies on cost grounds alone. Companies need to secure competitive advantage through smarter ways of doing business, including better use of technology, innovation and cost control.”

PCI suggested that Pfizer's $12bn a year cholesterol buster Lipitor, which at present is exclusively made in Cork, is one of the drugs likely to be lost to Ireland’s manufacturing sector when it goes off patent next year.

Give pharmas reason to invest

However, rather than dwelling on the negatives, PCI wants Ireland's pharma sector to focus on “giving global companies new reasons to base major facilities in Ireland, setting the country apart from competitive economies that are chasing the same investments.”

This, according to the group, involves: ensuring manufacturing operations are as “lean” and efficient as possible; encouraging drugmakers to invest in on-site innovation; and keep close control of all costs.

Beyond these measures, PCI called for greater industry collaboration with government and the research community on marketing the country’s life science country and particularly on position it as a “bridge between the US and Asia.”

Government role in boosting R&D

PCI also said it “is imperative that the [Irish] government continues to endorse the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate,” which is attractive to pharmaceutical producers and contributes around $1bn (€726.6m) to the country’s coffers each year.

Outside this the group said government enhancement of the R&D tax credit scheme by permitting companies to write-off development expenditure against operational costs would stimulate investment.

PCI concluded by saying that: “[If] the country can become a global centre of excellence for development and manufacturing, [the Irish pharmaceutical industry] will be well positioned to participate meaningfully in discovery-related activities.”

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