Here’s a report looking at biopharma by country, and ranking countries based on how good an environment they provide for the industry. The three big criteria are how much their governments spend on R&D, specifically life sciences and medical R&D, how closely they regulate pharmaceutical prices, and how strong their intellectual property protections are.
By these standards, the top countries that contribute to life sciences innovation rank as the US, Switzerland, Taiwan, Singapore, and Sweden. Those are all reasonable choices, but there are some surprisingly low rankings that are specifically addressed in the report. The UK, for example, comes in at #24, almost entirely because of its price controls, and Germany’s #12 finish is strongly influenced by that as well. (In case you’re wondering, the bottom countries are Australia, Phillipines, Thailand, South Africa and India. Price controls and lack of biologic data exclusivity account for some of those rankings, but government spending is in there, too.
I find this list interest, but clearly flawed. It’s been prepared from an economic perspective, and it’s worth seeing things that way, but it does completely miss scientific impact and several other factors. India, for example, would not be at the bottom of the list considering the country’s huge generic drug industry for the impact that it has globally. (That impact is not always what everyone hopes it is, when you take into account some of the scandals, but still). And having the UK outranked by Colombia is just silly. Colombia has (and I hope I’m not offending any readers there) very little worldwide impact on the life sciences at all, while the UK has a very large amount indeed. Its drug companies, its universities, and its other research institutions are often world-class, and it actually has a very large profile indeed. If you’re ranking countries by how they “impact global biopharma innovation”, something has gone wrong when the UK finishes 24th.
Similarly, it’s hard to see how Portugal comes in 6th, while Germany is 15th (and also lags Estonia and Mexico). All of these countries make real contributions, but if you walked up to anyone who works in any aspect of the biopharma business and asked them to rank those four countries in terms of global impact, I feel certain that Germany would be the unanimous first choice. I understand that the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation was probably trying to come up with just these sorts of provocative comparisons, but they’re provocative enough to damage the credibility of the entire effort.