It is a great pleasure for me to be present at the opening of these impressive new offices of Glaxo Smith Kline. Glaxo Smith Kline is one of Britain’s business success stories. It is now the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world in terms of sales, and one of the top ten companies, in terms of capital, listed on the London Stock Exchange. It employs nearly one hundred thousand staff world wide, with more than twelve thousand working on research and development. Its brands include some, like “Beechams Powders”, that have been well known in Britain for over a century, and others that reflect the most modern pharmaceutical research. Glaxo Smith Kline is well known for its principled approach to corporate social responsibility, in particular through the development of low cost drugs aimed at reducing the spread of malaria and the donation of medicine against the tropical disease filiarisis. The company reflects Britain’s traditional strengths in the areas of scientific research and development and our business values of honesty and transparency.
It is well known that in every country the pharmaceutical industry operates in a particularly difficult scientific, legal, regulatory and financial environment. Healthcare is a particularly sensitive area for the public, and media coverage of the industry is not always fair. There is a delicate balance to be struck between, on the one hand, providing accessible, effective and cheap medicines to the public, and on the other hand, providing a fair profit to investors to justify the huge costs of pharmaceutical research and the high risks involved. For their part, regulatory authorities have to provide a fair, objective and predictable environment in which pharmaceutical companies can work. The medical profession too has a responsibility to prescribe wisely, within the best medical guidelines, and to ensure that the supply of medicines is controlled in the best interests of patients and taxpayers. The presence of Dr Kosova, the new Minister of Health, gives me an opportunity to praise his tireless efforts and the strong leadership he is showing to combat mismanagement in the public health sector.
In Albania, Glaxo Smith Kline has expanded from modest beginnings in 1992 to a substantial company today, with 22 staff covering activities including the importation and sale of a wide range of products, in particular prescription medicines and vaccines, support for medical education and conferences, work on the regulatory environment, and medical investigation and study of epidemics. The company has been of great help to my embassy in keeping us informed of the challenges facing British businesses in Albania and of problems in the business climate. I hope that we have been, and will continue to be, of help to Glaxo Smith Kline in representing the company’s concerns to the Albanian government, as Albania continues to align its legislation and procedures with those of the European Union.
The government in London, which I represent here in Albania, is strongly committed to the expansion of British trade and investment outside the United Kingdom. So I am particularly pleased with the success of Glaxo Smith Kline in the Albanian market. This is a small market, but one with the potential for considerable growth. I hope that many other British companies will learn from Glaxo Smith Kline and be inspired by its success to enter the Albanian market themselves.