The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) annual conference returned for its 10th year in Liverpool Street on 26 April.

The event focussed on life sciences opportunities in the UK, how to ensure patients get the best possible care and how new technologies and innovative medicines will help secure a world leading NHS for the decades to come.

Here is a pick of what The Pharmacist learnt.

  1. Uncertainty around Brexit’s impact on patients

European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) director general Nathalie Moll said that ‘Brexit has the potential to impact on patients’.

According to the EFPIA, 45 million medicines leave the UK for the EU and 37 million enter the UK from the EU every month.

Minister of state for trade and export promotion Baroness Fairhead CBE said: ‘We hear loud and clear the challenges that the uncertainty around EU exit has created.

‘We are going to continue to work with the EU to get the best deal for businesses and citizens and also to find ways to see new opportunities.’

  1. Access to medicines in the UK is poor

The uptake of new medicines in the UK is too low compared to other countries, with only 18 patients for every 100 getting access to a medicine, according to ABPI commercial policy executive director Dr Richard Torbett.

ABPI president Lisa Anson said: ‘UK patients remain five times less likely to get a new medicine than in France or Germany.

‘Improving patient access to medicines to the levels enjoyed by most EU countries is one area where we need to focus.’

Around 82% of branded medicines made by the industry and used in the NHS are covered by the 2014 voluntary pharmaceutical pricing regulation scheme (PPRS).

Ms Anson said that over this period, branded medicines spend declined in real terms by 0.4% while spend on the NHS grew.

With an ageing population and an increasing number of complex diseases, the ABPI wants to ensure that the next PPRS agreement will ‘work’ for the NHS and address the issue, it said.

  1. CAR-T therapy could be available on the NHS soon

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T) – a type of treatment in which patient T cells are modified to attack cancer cells – could be available on the NHS this Autumn.

He continued: ‘As we celebrate the 70th anniversary, the NHS is working harder than ever to save lives and improve care by embracing cutting edge technology like CAR-T therapy and spreading innovation across the whole health service.

‘Preparations are underway to make CAR-T, one of the most innovative treatments that has ever been offered on the NHS available to patients.’

Mr Stevens also argued that manufacturers need to set ‘fair and affordable prices so treatments can be made available to all who need them.’

  1. Biosimilars could help save £300m by 2020

Mr Stevens said he had set a target for the NHS to become one of the fastest adopters of new biosimilars – where they represent better value than the comparators – such as 90% of new patients are prescribed them within 90 days of marketing authorisation and 80% within 12 months.

He continued: ‘If we do that, we’ll have saved up to £300m by 2020. […] We are well on track for that and in fact likely to see that call during the course of 2019.’

Biological medicines are ‘important, clinically effective medicines, which can significantly impact on a patient’s disease’, according to the NHS.

  1. Embracing data for better patient care 

Data is power and we should embrace it to deliver better patient care, said cancer data and information specialist Chris Carrigan.

He continued: ‘We need to remove some of the blockers and be able to use some of the data.

‘Our ability to embrace the data challenge will not fail as a result of technology, nor of the ability to analyse the data.

‘The biggest risk of failure is through the lack of patient and public engagement, support, confidence, understanding, control and trust.’

National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) chair Richard Stephens argued that the lack of access to data in hospital might contribute to the UK currently lagging behind Europe in diagnosing and treating cancer, as an ABPI report showed.