Brexit bad for patients according to ABPI which says UK would lose regulatory influence

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

The EMA has been based in London since 1995
The EMA has been based in London since 1995

Related tags European medicines agency European union Uk

Brexit would add extra barriers to licensing medicines in the UK according to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

The drug industry group raised concerns about a ‘yes’ vote in June's referendum, arguing that leaving the European Union (EU) will see the UK lose its role in shaping regulatory policy.

A spokeswoman told us “The standing of the UK’s Medicines Healthcare Products Research Agency (MHRA) in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is just one example of how Britain takes a leadership role across Europe.

If the EMA leaves London – and it would have to in the event of the UK voting to leave the EU – you risk adding extra barriers to licensing new medicines. We believe this would be bad news for our patients who are already accessing new medicines at a slower pace than many other countries across the EU​.”

The comments follow a day after ABPI CEO Mark Thompson warned that leaving the EU would make the UK a less attractive market.

"Our members have confirmed that the applications for UK license would come after the European license due to the smaller patient population in the UK​.”


The EMA – which is based in Canary Warf in London – is a decentralised agency that carries out technical, scientific or managerial tasks related to medicines to help EU institutions make and implement policies.

All decentralised agencies are located in EU member states according to a spokesman for the organisation.

The ABPI’s concerns about the negative impact of the EMA leaving London echo comments by life sciences minister George Freeman.

He told delegates at the Biotrinity conference​ in London in April that the EMA’s location gives the UK a “disproportionately influentia​l” role in regulatory developments in the EU.

They are also in line with those made by other UK pharmaceutical industry organisations​.

UK science

The ABPI is also worried leaving the EU will make it harder for pharmaceutical researchers to share ideas.

The spokeswoman told us: “We believe that collaboration within Europe strengthens the UK science base. In an era of new and exciting technologies, such as gene and cell therapies which will require novel manufacturing methods, the UK is seeking to grow its global offering​.” 

She cited the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership (MMIP) the ABPI launched in collaboration with BioIndustry Association (BIA) in 2014 as an example of a UK scheme that has fostered Europe-wide collaboration.

The MMIP partnership brings the biopharmaceutical industry together to work towards a common goal of creating an attractive and innovation-driven environment to ensure UK competitiveness in medicines manufacturing globally​.”

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