The pharmaceutical sector, the basis of a new production model in Spain


The pharmaceutical industry is positioned as a leading actor for the necessary evolution of the Spanish economy towards a productive model supported by innovation and research.

During his time as acting president, Pedro Sánchez stressed that the objective of the Government would be “to strengthen economic growth on much more productive bases, such as science, innovation, research and quality employment.” In this change of model to which Spain aspires, the pharmaceutical sector is postulated as a leading actor. This was stated by the top national officials of some of the main pharmaceutical companies present in the country, during the meeting Reality and challenges of the pharmaceutical industry in Spain, which organized EXPANSION with the sponsorship of Pharmaindustry.

The representatives agreed on their list of requests to the Executive. “The Government would only ask for dialogue and collaboration: the pharmaceutical sector is a focus of value and innovation in Spain, and it is important that we develop a joint roadmap to move forward as a country,” said Roberto Úrbez, general director of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in Spain and Portugal. Although he pointed out the need for this consensus, he added that “we are at an ideal time for Spain to continue to lead the world in research and clinical trials.”

“We must not forget how far innovation has brought us, making it possible to improve the quality of life”


“Maintaining investment in Spain creates challenges for international firms, due to internal competition between countries”



Along the same lines, “together with the dialogue to achieve the most stable regulatory framework possible and clear rules of the game, we ask for policies that help boost this business sector, which generates innovation and quality employment,” said Ignasi Biosca, CEO of Reig Jofre. He also stressed that this regulatory framework is key to “generate a certain stability, something that the industry needs but also the Spanish health system.”

Cristina Henríquez de Luna, president and CEO of GSK Spain, claimed that “the medicine sector should not be considered only as an expense, but as an opportunity to contribute to patient improvement, system sustainability, scientific development and the competitiveness of the industry. ” In this regard, he stressed that the sector is a leader in investment in R&D in Spain. In 2017, research spending reached 1,147 million euros, more than 20% of the total industry in the country.

From HIV drugs to the cure for hepatitis C, pharmaceutical innovation has greatly contributed to some of the most prominent medical advances of recent decades. Thus, Juan Carlos Aguilera, general director of Ferring in Spain, stressed that “we must not forget how far innovation has brought us, which has allowed the population’s quality of life to improve significantly.”

Experts stressed that collaboration with administrations is essential for the medicine sector. The reason is that it is a highly regulated industry, whose first client is the public health system, so that R + D + i is increasingly supported by collaboration with hospitals, universities and public research centers. Specifically, about half of the annual investment of the pharmaceutical industry in innovation goes to projects in collaboration with autonomies and hospitals.

In parallel, companies in the sector find strong international competition among their own national subsidiaries when it comes to attracting investments in R & D & I. In the case of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Spain is the third global market in number of clinical trials and patients included in research trials. Among the strengths of Spain, “the legal and regulatory framework is very good and expedites the approval of clinical trials; in addition, the Spanish hospital and public system is one of the best in the world,” said Roberto Úrbez.

Internal competition

The situation is similar in the case of GSK, which only has research centers in five countries; Spain is one of them. “Maintaining investment levels in Spain is always a challenge for an international company, whose competence is not only other companies but other countries and markets where the firm itself is present,” said Cristina Henríquez de Luna.

Taking into account that a drug can take a decade to develop, the pharmaceutical industry handles long time periods. Therefore, the effects of the policies are noted after several years. “The joint growth of local talent with the industry can easily be broken if the sector loses motivation; we have to continue to be recognized for the innovation we bring to the processes,” Aguilera said.

In short, Ignasi Biosca reiterated that “the main challenge is that regulatory framework that allows the introduction of innovation and investment in Spain.” Thus, he concluded that “the sector must be considered as an opportunity for growth and, therefore, to legislate to favor a matched and meaningful development.”

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