If you read between the lines, that is what Ian Hudson, the UK’s Chief Executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is saying. In a statement released this week, he cites “I feel the time is right for a new person to guide the Agency and our work through its next phase, following the UK’s departure from the EU next year.” Hard to critique that rationale. He’s also not alone. A recent study from GlobalData shows that “59% of healthcare industry professionals in the UK indicated their sentiment on the impact of Brexit has become more negative over the past 3 months.” The Financial Times recently published some “startling” Brexit economic scenarios and Prime Minister Theresa May had to say very recently that it was not possible to hold a second Brexit referendum before Britain leaves the EU in March. Cheerio.
Turns out a lot of people who work for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) don’t want to move to Amsterdam. Well, apart from having to move countries, according to Teleport, London beats Amsterdam on 11 of 17 quality metrics. Don’t forget about those pesky labor laws in the Netherlands, which means 135 short-term contract staff can’t work for the EMA. In total, the EMA anticipates “a staff loss of about 30%, with a high degree of uncertainty regarding mid-term staff retention.” Want to know what the EMA is going to do about it, or not do, as the case may be, go here for a list of scaled-back operations. Thanks a lot, Brexit. In case you didn’t know what the EMA does, they coincidently put out a video of what they do a week after announcing the higher-than-expected staff losses. Timing is everything.
PM Theresa May wants the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency post-Brexit. She’s essentially arguing that allowing the UK to contribute will be beneficial due to the nation’s prestigious universities and its regulatory body which assesses more medicines than any EU member. Staying in would mean UK patients get faster access to newly approved EMA medicines. But being part of the agency would mean following its rules, paying dues, and possibly being subject to its legal authority via the European Court of Justice instead of national UK courts. That’s a big no-no for May and pro-Brexit factions in the UK, so they’re trying to avoid that part of the deal. British biopharma is behind May’s stance—they still want some cake from this Great British Break Off.
The Nuffield Trust, an independent health charity, says that if the Brexit does not occur then “it would risk a chaotic disruption to supplies of medical products, and a rise in prices that would push hospitals deeper into deficit.” (Editorial note, the discussions in the previous hyperlink are well-structured and provide a summary of many of the issues Brexit will or won’t cause. Worth a read.) The Nuffield Trust goes on to talk about the issues that could arise from cross-border research collaborations, regulatory approval of new medicines, and healthcare for British citizens when they travel in Continental Europe. In a word “messy.” For a good laugh, see the 25 funniest Tweets on the day when Article 50 was signed.
Britain’s NHS has been struggling to keep up with nurse staffing, just like the US, Japan, and seemingly most of the world. The UK health system is projected to have a shortage of 30,000 nurses in the next year, and Brexit isn’t helping that number any. About 1,300 EU nurses applied to work in the country the month after Brexit. That same figure in April? Just 46. That’s about a 96% drop. This InsightCity writer has seen drag shows with less dramatic drops. To be sure, this is a chronic shortage and the Brexit vote is definitely not the primary cause of it. But it’s something to keep in mind as the UK prepares to begin goodbye negotiations with the EU.
Brexit, “bad news” for UK based Pharmaceutical companies, right? Well, if you consider a £275m (~$360m USD) investment by GlaxoSmithKline bad news, then sure. Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GSK and proponent of the “remain” vote in June’s EU referendum, said that the company will be expanding each of its manufacturing plants located in County Durham, Angus, and Hertfordshire. The investment is expected to create jobs at these expanded sites, and it can be largely credited to the UK’s competitive tax system. Witty, who said leaving the EU would be a mistake explained that the “underlying attractiveness in terms of the UK’s economic strengths and its fiscal environment haven’t changed and that’s why we feel very strongly that this investment makes sense.”
If demographic stereotypes hold, drug company employees in the UK probably voted to remain in the EU. Makes sense. Conventional wisdom holds that remaining would have been better for business. Now that the vote has gone the other way, a task force of drug company CEOs and government officials has been put together to combat problems such as uncertainty, added complexity and potential drug approval delays. Several large-scale concerns are on the table. Will British patients have to go to the back of the line, behind the EU, for new medicines? Will Britain need to recreate its own regulatory body for the approval and regulation of medicines? Only (a long) time will tell.