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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Glaxo Warns It May Exit U.K.

LONDON -- Britain's biggest drugs firm has warned the government to foster the industry or risk losing it in a fight over who should pay for a new wave of so-called "lifestyle" drugs.

The warning came Monday after an advisory committee rejected state funding for GlaxoWellcome PLC's new influenza drug, Relenza, fearing sky-high costs to the cash-strapped National Health Service.

But Glaxo said the move could backfire on the government as it might force an entire industry - and one of the country's most successful - to shift its operations overseas.

"If you continue to make the environment antagonistic to this industry, then by definition it will start to move elsewhere," Glaxo chairman Richard Sykes said.

News that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, in its first major ruling, planned to ban Glaxo's inhaled flu drug from NHS prescription leaked out Friday, knocking 2 percent off Glaxo's share price.

With the industry keen to reap profits from the annual scourge of flu, Sykes said the decision was a blow to innovation and would cause drugmakers to reconsider whether Britain was the right place to develop new products.

He said just 6 percent of his company's business was in Britain, yet it conducted half its research here - a seal of approval Britain could lose if the climate changes.

Glaxo has already written to the government about its concerns, but Sykes said on BBC radio: "It wasn't a threat in any way. It was more of a plea."

While Relenza could prove a life saver for the old or infirm - up to 4,000 Britons die from flu each year - health experts say it could prove a very costly cure for what proves only a minor ailment for most.

Estimates say the drug could cost the cash-strapped NHS more than pounds 100 million ($165.2 million) in an epidemic year, with the drug costing pounds 24 ($39.68) for a full course. Glaxo claims the cost in a normal year would be pounds 10 million to pounds 15 million.