The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.
Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed (Eminem)
As another year draws to a close, it’s customary for Editors to consider the past 12 months, and perhaps draw a few conclusions about the future. As regular readers of this column might recall, I have limited faith in forecasts and predictions but, never one to flaunt tradition, I’ll give it my best shot.
Based in the UK, it’s difficult to think about 2017 as anything other than the Year of the Brexit. Whether this was our greatest error in national judgement or a canny strategic move is something only time will tell. What we are faced with now, however, is the Uncertainty (note the capital ‘U’) of what Brexit will bring, and what it will mean for companies in the UK, Europe and beyond.
The UK’s Chemicals Industry Association (CIA) has been doing a fantastic job in lobbying the British government on behalf of the industry, and I take my hat off to them for a job that is being very well done. But I think I was probably most encouraged by the words of Jim Scandura of Avara Pharmaceutical Services, who echoed the views of many others that I spoke to, when he told me at CPhI Worldwide in October that“It [Brexit] is going to be what it is, and we’re not going to worry about it.”
So I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about it any more either.
In the US, the world has watched with interest as President Trump’s first year in office has progressed with a variety of headlining events. Perhaps most important to our industry – aside from his decision to exit the Paris Agreement – were his plans to curtail regulations, hasten drug approvals and move manufacturing back to the US. Many of his actions have been positive for US companies (that’s what he was elected for, after all), but trade protectionism has the potential to hit some non-US companies hard.
Not to be thwarted, many companies have responded by acquiring sites in the US that allow them to circumvent protectionist rules. In much a similar way, many UK companies are setting up assets within continental Europe…
But like I said, I’m not worrying about that any more.
China has taken huge steps this year to raise standards of pharmaceutical and other speciality chemicals manufactured in the country. As well as having a broad impact on supply chains, following closures of facilities across the country (posing opportunities for the nimble-footed elsewhere) the changes are also having an impact on cost.
The country once viewed as a low-cost option is finding it challenging to retain rock-bottom prices in the face of pressures to provide improvements in quality.
Overall, the global pharmaceutical industry was predicted to see moderate growth in 2017, and this appears to have held true. Those forecasters that I am known to mistrust have projected continued growth of 3.7% for the global industry in 2018. I will confidently comment that – give or take a few percentage points – they’re probably not far off.
I can’t say for sure whether they’ve considered all the possible impacts of Brexit, US protectionism, climate change, hurricanes, asteroid strikes, super-bugs and technological meltdowns, but I’ve decided…
I’m not worrying about it any more.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Sarah Harding, PhD
Editor – Speciality Chemicals Magazine