Comment: @ABPI_UK survey reaffirms gap between public appetite for, and patient perceptions of access to, health research and innovations

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is shaping up for its annual conference later this week.

I see from the programme that the heavy-hitters of British science such as Sir Mark Walport from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will be out in force to give their perspective on the big picture.

As a presage to its conference the ABPI has published the results of a rather good YouGov survey of public attitudes to medical research and innovation.

The survey shows that the majority of people would give a blood sample, share their data or donate an organ for research (although I do think the numbers are lower than they should be). People are proud of the UK’s history of innovation and see the NHS as one of the main reasons for advances in care and treatment. People put a cure for cancer and then Alzheimer’s at the top of their wish list but are most worried about ‘poor diet.’

One of the really interesting sections is that in which people are asked to make trade-offs in future research:

The public are split on whether they would like to live beyond 100 years old if medical advances made it possible: 37 per cent chose either option (with the rest saying “don’t know”). While “a significant majority – 68 per cent to 12 per cent – believe that using medical technology to eliminate genetic disorders or diseases should be allowed, a bigger majority – 74 per cent to 10 per cent – believe it should not be allowed to make people “smarter, faster or stronger” or pick personal characteristics. 

It will be interesting to see if the debate at the ABPI conference focuses on this, the usual obsessions with boosting public support for data sharing, or issues around patient and carer access to research and innovation which is surely the most pressing.In echoes of the NIHR/HRA survey in March the YouGov poll highlights that people believe fellow citizens in other parts of the country are getting access to innovations that are not available to them. The public perception that there is a postcode lottery in innovation is a worry. Accurate or not it could serve to chip away at the public support so evident in the headline survey findings put out by the ABPI. How’s that saying go? ‘Accessing is believing’

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