Spanish R&D: still open for business


Spain’s pharmaceutical industry has been under a lot of pressure in the past few years: public expenditure on pharmaceuticals contracted nearly 29 percent between May 2010 and December 2013. Numerous cost-containment measures, such as increases in co-payments, de-listing hundreds of minor medications and price cuts have all contributed to the industry’s current need to rethink just how to approach the Spanish market. Nevertheless, the country has maintained its status as an attractive global market with a sizeable return on investment.

Part of that investment, from local and multinational companies alike, can be found in the industry’s continual investment in research. “R&D investment allocated to the pharmaceutical industry has remained steady during the last five years, at a rate of approximately EUR 1 billion (USD 1.39 billion) per year,” comments Humberto Arnés, director general of Spain’s innovative pharmaceutical association Farmaindustria. “Despite the crisis, Spain is still the fifth biggest European market, and the general conditions to invest are favorable to the pharmaceutical industry within that.”

Javier Ellena, president of Lilly Spain, notes that because of Spain’s highly productive R&D centers and strong hospital network, the breadth of Spain’s clinical trial potential is unparalleled for multinationals that want to invest in research here. “The power of Spain’s scientific community lies not only with medicine or the clinical practice of medicine, but also R&D,” says Ellena. “The country’s laboratories interact with many universities and private and public R&D institutions, which has offered outstanding opportunities to produce real innovation. Lilly actually has more patients enrolled in different trials in different phases in Spain than in Germany, which has twice the population. It is not just about lower prices; quality is fundamental as well, and Spain can provide both.”

For national companies, the story behind R&D is slightly different. Spain’s top pharma companies are not yet quite in the same league as traditional Big Pharma, and often have to be very careful about the investments they make in R&D. “We have to be highly innovative with our projects,” explains Esteve director Antoni Esteve. “Laboratories need to be ready to undertake much more significant projects than in the past. The requirements to accept real innovation will be higher, and recognition of a product’s real value will be more demanding.” In order to meet that demand, Esteve and similar companies in Spain often use collaboration, both at home and abroad, to ensure the pharmacoeconomic value of a product is solid.

While Spain’s future for pharma companies still remains somewhat hazy, there is no doubt that its capacity for innovation still makes the country attractive for the industry. Organizations like GSK, Janssen, Lilly, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer are a just a few of the companies that have invested significantly in research and innovation with local institutes and clinics or have even established research facilities located in Spain. Despite an important readjustment after a crisis, the industry is poised to continue using Spain as a strategic hub for work in R&D and innovation.

Article by Cameron Rochette

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