European Medicines Agency fears losing staff after it leaves London

Report finds post-Brexit relocation carries ‘very real risks to public health’

The European Medicines Agency, responsible for monitoring the safety of medical treatments, must relocate from London after Brexit. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The European Medicines Agency, responsible for monitoring the safety of medical treatments, must relocate from London after Brexit. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

Losing valuable staff is the major concern in the impending relocation of the European Medicines Agency.

The agency which is responsible for the evaluation, authorisation and pharmacovigilance of all medicines in the European Union has been based in London’s Canary Wharf since 1995. However, the Brexit vote means that the agency will have to move to a country that remains a member of the EU.

EU leaders are due to decide in November to which of 19 different cities that have applied to house the agency – including Dublin – it should relocate.

A report for the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations has said that relocation carries with it some “very real risks to public health”.

The report, written by Charles River Associates, says there are two significant ways relocation could impact on the agency’s activities.

First, any new location for the agency could affect its ability to coordinate the network of expertise on which it relies. Second, it could jeopardise the EMA’s ability to retain key staff to carry out its functions.

It calls on those involved in assessing alternative homes for the EMA to “avoid any arbitrary decisions that could lead to [ being located in a country that would jeopardise its activities and, in turn, compromise companies’ ability to deliver safe and effective medicines to patients”.

This is understood to refer to industry concerns that moving the agency to certain EU states could prove unattractive to critical staff on whom the agency’s smooth functioning operates.

The report suggests that it would take between one and two years for newly hired specialist staff to become fully confident in the regulatory and procedural requirements of their roles.

At the end of last year, the agency employed 897 people.

Failing to retain or hire adequate staff could delay patient access to new potentially life-saving medicines, it warns, and also lead to delayed reaction times when problems occur with adverse patient reactions or medication toxicity.

In compiling the report, the authors spoke to four specific companies – GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, MSD and Sanofi – as well as industry groups and availing of academic literature..