After 19 cities bid to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the decision has been made to relocate the regulator’s headquarters to Amsterdam. The move from London, UK to the Netherlands will need to be completed in the next 16 months by March 2019.
The EMA was established in 1995 and has always had its headquarters in London. Since the agency employs around 900 staff members, the task of moving its operations to another country will likely be difficult.
A few months ago, the European regulator conducted a survey of its staff and found that as few as 6 percent of them would be willing to relocate outside of London. However, since the average flight from London to Amsterdam takes just one hour, it’s possible that the EMA will retain more staff members than it would have if the regulator set up its headquarters in a more distant nation.
“Now that we finally know where our journey is taking us, we can take concrete actions for a successful move,” said EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi. “Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes. It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs.”
Rasi was optimistic that “a large majority of EMA staff” would be willing to relocate to Amsterdam based on the results of the recent internal survey, however he admitted that the move will impact the agency’s normal activities.
“Even in the context of the Brexit negotiations where all sectors are looking for clarity on the future, it is important to recognise that the medicines sector is different. The medicines we make impact directly on peoples’ health,” said European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) director general, Nathalie Moll. “Securing transitional arrangements and long-term cooperation on medicines regulation between the UK and EU is the best way of ensuring that patients across Europe continue to have access to safe and effective medicines.”
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, expressed similar sentiments in supporting the EMA through this move to ensure vital activities can still be performed.
“Up to now the focus has inevitably been on the future location of the EMA. But today’s decision marks the moment when attention should switch to how patient safety and effective public health can be maintained during this complex transition and into the future,” said Thompson. “We now urge both the UK and the EU to put patients first and acknowledge that securing a comprehensive agreement to cooperate on medicines safety, regulation and supply is an urgent negotiating priority.”