The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recently released a business continuity plan dealing with the potential implications of Brexit. Currently based in London, the EMA will be required to transfer their headquarters to another EU member state upon the UK's exit from the union. In preparation for this, they recently issued a press release defining their planned actions:
“Preparing for the move, managing the necessary changes, and addressing challenges such as possible losses in skilled and experienced staff, in a proactive and efficient way requires considerable internal resources,” said Noel Wathion, EMA’s Deputy Executive Director and head of EMA’s Brexit task force. "With the business continuity plan we aim to ensure that the assessment of medicines is not disrupted and that patients in Europe continue to have access to high quality, safe and effective medicines.”
The business continuity plan categorises and prioritises the EMA’s activities in accordance with their impact on public health. It places the EMA’s activities into three priority categories. Activities of the highest priority are placed in Category 1, high priority activities in Category 2 and activities of lower importance in Category 3.
As of May 2017, the EMA had already started to scale back its Category 3 activities in order to focus on Brexit. This included the suspension of several key projects, including:
- the European Medicines Web Portal - a new publicly-available online information source on all medicinal products marketed in the EU
- contribution to the e-submission project which allows applicants to electronically submit documents linked to authorization requests
- the development of a transparency roadmap for EMA future measures and the participation in the benchmarking of medicines regulatory authorities in the EU as of 2018
In addition to these measures, the EMA intends to reduce the number of audits and participation by its members in external meetings and conferences. The purpose of these changes is to allow essential staff to support other core activities. The EMA will, however, periodically review the duration of this suspension in order to avoid undermining their critical work.
With regards to Category 2 , the EMA highlights that activities of this category will be maintained for as long as possible in order to secure the development of medicinal products. Examples of Category 2 activities include the proactive publication of clinical data as well as various initiatives promoting the availability of medicines.
The EMA’s first priority is to ensure continuity of activities within Category 1. These activities are related to the assessment and safety monitoring of medicinal products. Any disruption in these activities would have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of the population in Europe.
Another risk being examined by the EMA is the potential loss of staff caused by the move and the related impact on categories 1 and 2. In the worst case, a longer-term loss of skilled and experienced staff caused by the agency’s relocation may potentially lead to a situation where it cannot operate properly.
As it moves from its current London headquarters following Britain's decision to leave the EU, the European Commission has said that it will assess 19 offers from various EU cities to host the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) headquarters. A final decision will be taken at the General Affairs Council and announced 20 November 2017. The cities that have applied to host the EMA as of 1 August 2017 are:
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Athens, Greece
- Barcelona, Spain
- Bonn, Germany
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Brussels, Belgium
- Bucharest, Romania
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Dublin, Ireland
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Helsinki, Finland
- Lille, France
- Milan, Italy
- Porto, Portugal
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Strasbourg, France
- Vienna, Austria
- Warsaw, Poland
- Zagreb, Croatia
Further updates will be provided by EMA on the implementation of the business continuity plan.