London's Pharmaceutical Industry

The United Kingdom has a solid pharmaceutical sector that is driven by innovation and by a desire to make a real difference to people's lives. According to the New York Times, approximately 20 per cent of the world's best-selling drugs are manufactured in the UK. The British pharmaceutical industry has a particularly strong presence in London, since the country's capital is known as one of the world's top centres for innovation and for high-value industries

Overview and recent trends of the London pharmaceutical sector

The London pharmaceutical industry has been an established economic sector since the late 1880s. Throughout the decades, this sector has continued to expand both in terms of revenues and of its scope and significance. This trend has been particularly marked during the past ten years. A report published by the Office for National Statistics revealed that between 2008 and 2014, the pharmaceutical sector was among the top five most important contributors to the national economy, as it generated annual revenues of up to £8 billion and its total worth is estimated at nearly £30 billion. Although the pharmaceutical industry suffered the negative effects of the financial crisis, this sector has proven to be resilient and is currently listed as the 9th largest pharmaceutical market in the world. Recent market research has shown that there are many reasons to be positive about the future of this industry, as it is estimated that by 2018 the sector will have grown by 2 per cent.

The British pharmaceutical sector is mainly clustered around the so-called Golden Triangle, which includes London, Cambridge, and Oxford. Thanks to its state-of-the-art infrastructure, strong levels of investment, and solid reputation as a global business hub, London is at the heart of the UK's pharmaceutical sector. A government survey estimated that towards the end of 2013 there were 82 pharmaceutical sites in London.

This industry sector generates approximately 70,000 jobs nationwide, the vast majority of which are based in London. The 2014 Strength and Opportunities report showed that approximately 15,000 people are employed in this sector in London, making the British capital the second best place in the country to find a job in this industry. During the past twelve months, nearly 2,000 new pharmaceutical jobs were created in London. Approximately 33 per cent of all pharmaceutical jobs are in R&D roles, but this is not the only area that generates employment. Managerial roles and sales positions are also common entry routes into this industry sector. More than 15 per cent of all pharmaceutical jobs in London are offered by large multinationals, whereas 40 per cent of the employment opportunities are created by small and medium-sized companies. Average salaries are among the UK's highest and range from £25,000 for recent graduates to £100,000 for senior employees.

Key pharmaceutical activities in London include research and development and manufacturing. Unlike in other areas of the UK, the number of companies involved in each one of these two activities is well balanced. The most important sub-sectors include the production of generic drugs, small molecules, therapeutic proteins, and specialist services.

Main pharmaceutical companies in London

Dozens of multinational pharma companies are headquartered in London. Among the most important firms we can highlight the following:

- GlaxoSmithKline, which is currently listed as the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the world. GlaxoSmithKline's headquarters are located in Brentwood, and the company also has R&D facilities in Stockley Park, near Uxbridge.

- Merck & Co., one of the world's largest and most respected pharmaceutical companies. Merck has a large site in Hertford Road, North London.

- AstraZeneca's global headquarters are located in Paddington, London, although the company has plans to relocate to a brand new site in Cambridge by the end of 2016.

- Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals has its head office in Uxbridge, where it employs approximately 500 people. The company specialises in R&D and drug development for medical conditions like Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, and psychiatric disorders.

- Aspar Pharmaceuticals manufactures analgesics and is one of the main suppliers of British pharmacies and grocery stores. The company is based in north London, near Burnt Oak, where it employs 50 staff members.

- Oxford Pharmascience, a Camden-based firm that specialises in redeveloping and reformulating pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, making them safer and more easily available to consumers.

In addition, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry is also based in London.