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Aftermath of Brexit Could Cripple EMA


European Union

Since the British public voted in favour of leaving the European Union in June of 2016, there has been much speculation as to where the EMA will set up shop post-Brexit.

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September 27, 2017 | by Sarah Hand, M.Sc.

A recent survey conducted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has found that as little as six percent of its staff would be willing to relocate once the regulatory body moves its headquarters out of London, England. The loss of this many staff members would severely affect the EMA’s ability to regulate drugs, resulting in a potential “public health crisis.”

Since the British public voted in favour of leaving the European Union in June of 2016, there has been much speculation as to where the EMA will set up shop post-Brexit. There are currently 19 cities in the running to be the new host of the EMA.

In all, 92 percent of the EMA’s staff members completed the regulator’s survey on relocation. While the cities were not mentioned by name in the publicly-released survey results, there were striking differences between the potential staff retention rates for each of the hypothetical moves.

The EMA assembled the candidate cities into four groups based on their potential staff retention rates. In Group 4, eight of the 19 candidate cities showed a low retention rate of less than 30 percent of the EMA’s staff, with one city coming in at just 6 percent staff retention. One candidate city fared a little better with a retention rate of 48 percent and the lone member of Group 3.

Five candidate cities comprised Group 2 with a retention rate between 50 and 64 percent. Finally, the remaining five candidate cities were sorted into Group 1 based on a retention rate greater than 65 percent.

The city with the highest retention rate came in at 81 percent, however the EMA still warned that even this move would require between two and three years of recovery time to deal with the resulting nearly 20 percent loss of staff.

A FierceBiotech analysis of the survey results speculates that some of the top-performing candidate cities are likely locations in Western Europe, like Dublin, Ireland, which would represent a less difficult move for EMA staffers currently based in London. In fact, 65 percent of EMA staff surveyed said the new location of the regulator would be a major factor in their decision of whether or not to relocate.

The EMA estimates that they must retain a minimum of 462 full time members of staff in order to continue to perform their highest priority activities, including safety monitoring of medicines and assessing new drug applications. Just four of the 19 candidate cities would allow the EMA to hold onto this number of staff to complete vital activities.

The agency plans to vote on its new location in November. While the results of the staff retention survey will likely be taken into account by the ministers, many other factors will contribute to the final decision on the EMA’s new headquarters.

Keywords:  EMA, Brexit, Pharmaceutical Regulation


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