Comment: Tackling increased demand for medicine

Increased demand for medicines should prompt a rethink of how we make them, argues Clive Badman. Picture: TSPL
Increased demand for medicines should prompt a rethink of how we make them, argues Clive Badman. Picture: TSPL
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CHANGING how medicines are made will help patients, says Clive Badman

AS WE live longer, more people manage more chronic conditions with more medicines. Those are increasingly sophisticated, with hundreds of millions often spent developing effective treatments for small, genetically defined groups of patients. The pharmaceutical industry must increase the supply of medicines to patients within stretched healthcare budgets. To do this, we must change the way we make medicines and CMAC (Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation) leads the way.

Globally, millions use daily medications that started off at GSK in Montrose. Like similar sites, each medicine is made in a series of chemical steps – adding something, taking something out, heating it, putting it under pressure – a batch at a time. At every step compounds are tested. If a batch doesn’t score 100 per cent, it is rejected..

The new world looks very different. Replacing vast vats, pipes and vessels will be a single tube. The manufacturing process will start when the first raw ingredient is placed in one end. Following a continuous series of steps, the final medicine will be “crystallised” at the other. Instead of breaking the roadmap of chemical processes into steps, they happen in a straight line.

Scotland is at the heart of the global movement towards realising this ambition. CM means you no longer tie up large amounts of money in drums on shelves waiting for the next stage. By testing throughout the continuous process, the opportunities to get it right first time increase dramatically . More innovative, efficient manufacturing frees money to invest in research and gets more medicines to patients and consumers sooner. CMAC started as a partnership in 2011 centred on the University of Strathclyde. It now includes seven UK universities, four leading global pharmaceutical companies – and a third essential partner: governments. In barely four years CMAC has grown to employ 100 staff and is a global centre of excellence.

Concerns have been voiced that Scotland is losing out by not turning intellectual property into economic benefit. I am confident CMAC will soon turn the vision and skills of those involved into income for Scotland.

• Clive Badman, Industrial Chairman of CMAC, speaks at Realising the Manufacturing Potential of Life Sciences, on 24 February.


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