EMA Proceeds with HQ Relocation, UK Pharma Industry Raises Concerns Amid Brexit Uncertainty

Amid the continuing uncertainty regarding a plan for the UK to withdraw from the European Union (EU) (i.e., Brexit), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is proceeding with its previously announced plans to relocate from its current headquarters in London to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The EMA announced that it will physically relocate to the Netherlands in early March 2019. The Dutch authorities have already officially handed over a temporary building, the Spark Building in Amsterdam Sloterdijk, to EMA’s Executive Director Guido Rasi on January 9, 2019, and the EMA is now preparing for its physical move.

While relocating, the EMA said it has to ensure the continuation of its main activities throughout the move and has implemented Phase 4 of its business continuity plan accordingly. The focus will be on the authorization, maintenance, and supervision of medicines, ongoing Brexit preparedness / implementation activities, and preparing for the implementation of new veterinary legislation. In addition, in 2019, the EMA has prioritized continued work on certain activities in its multiannual work program.

The EMA said that focusing on these activities as part of Phase 4 of its business continuity plan should allow the agency to cope with the anticipated staff loss of 25% of its total workforce as a result of its move from London to Amsterdam and ensure the continued delivery of EMA’s services during peak relocation time.

In April 2019, once the agency has completed its move to the Spark Building in Amsterdam, the agency will review which other activities from the multiannual work plan can be resumed in the second half of 2019.

The EMA had first issued its business continuity plan as a result of Brexit in October 2017. The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, and the Brexit deal, which has to be approved by the UK Parliament, is facing uncertainty. In mid-January 2019, the UK House of Commons rejected UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal for a Brexit withdrawal plan and as of press time, no clear resolution of the issue had been made as the Prime Minister and UK lawmakers consider and put forth alternative plans of action ranging from a “no-deal” exit plan, to a revised “deal” for exit, to an extension of the UK’s withdrawal from March 2019 to later in 2019, to consideration for a new public referendum on the UK withdrawal’s from the EU.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the trade group representing the branded pharmaceutical industry in the UK, has emphasized the importance of resolving the Brexit issue to ensure continuing the supply of medicines into the UK.

“The focus of pharmaceutical companies is on making sure that medicines and vaccines get to patients whatever the Brexit outcome,” said Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the ABPI in a January 15, 2019 statement following the UK Parliament’s rejection of a Brexit plan by Prime Minister May. “This includes stockpiling and duplicating manufacturing processes here and in Europe. We continue to work as closely as possible with Government on no-deal planning. But we reiterate that ‘no deal’ would prove to be extremely challenging. With time running out, we hope Parliament will come together and quickly find a solution to the stalemate and reassure patients that medicines will not be disrupted come March 2019.”

Source: European Medicine Agency and ABPI

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