London to Amsterdam in 16 months a ‘demanding challenge’ says EMA

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags European medicines agency European union

European member states have selected Amsterdam as the post-Brexit home of the European Medicines Agency, following a secret ballot vote in Brussels yesterday.

The decision was made by representatives from 27 member states under Europe’s General Affairs Council, and triggers a 16-month relocation period after which the Agency must be fully operating from the Dutch capital.

Nineteen members bid to host the Agency, with Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Vienna and the runner-up Milan among the favourites.

EMA executive director Guido Rasi said he was happy a city with ‘’excellent connectivity,”​ transport and infrastructure won the vote.

 In a press briefing this morning, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said moving operations in an “extremely tight timeframe”​ was a “demanding challenge,”​ which will affect its 700 employees and families. 

According to an internal survey conducted in the lead-up to the vote, in the best case scenario 81% of staff members will continue to work for the Agency, which would mean approximately 200 staff members will lose their jobs.

While the EMA’s main priority is to preserve regulatory activity, it said finding schooling for around 600 children, and affordable, good quality housing for up to 900 households, are also primary concerns.

EMA headquarters

Amsterdam’s bid proposed a building with complete conference facilities – in line with EMA’s London site capabilities – to house the Agency headquarters, to be completed by March 30, 2019.

The city also proposed two options for temporary offices located close to the conference centre, which it said would ensure the continuity of operations until the construction of EMA headquarters is completed.

In the press briefing, the Agency said it expects temporary offices to be available to staff by Q4, 2018.

“EMA’s building plans need to be approved by local authorities, EMA’s Management Board and the EU budgetary authority,”​ said the Agency in a statement​, adding that this process typically takes between six and eight months.

The EMA will meet with Dutch authorities later this week to discuss a joint governance to oversee the relocation project, and to establish a roadmap and milestones.

Drug delays?

In the lead-up to the vote the EMA said​ in the best-case scenario, drug approval processes and safety monitoring activities would be impacted for two to three years.

This morning, Rasi said once the regulatory systems are in place, it is up to the pharmaceutical industry to complete “all the necessary steps”​ to avoid drug shortages once the UK leaves the EU.

“We need to make sure that we have the necessary processes and procedures in place for them ​[pharmaceutical firms] to adhere to, and of course everything depends on the willingness of the pharmaceutical industry,” ​he told delegates.

“We are convinced that they will, as quickly as possible, take the necessary actions to avoid problems later in terms of supply of medicines,” ​he added.

The UK Bioindustry Association's CEO Steve Bates said “London’s loss is Amsterdam’s gain,”​ adding, “We must now ensure Brexit does not disrupt the safe supply of vital medicines to tens of millions of families in the EU 27 and the UK.”

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