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Don’t let Brexit scupper UK drug discovery and delivery, MPs told

UK must align with EU regulation from day one, urges pharma trade body ABPI

Caroline White

Friday, 02 December 2016

The UK must align with EU regulation on the discovery, manufacture, and delivery of medicines “from day one” of life after the EU to ensure that patients continue to get the drugs they need, when they need them, the UK pharma trade body, the ABPI has told MPs.

Giving evidence to the parliamentary committee on exiting the European Union, earlier this week, Dr Virginia Acha, ABPI's Executive Director of Research, Medical and Innovation, said that for the UK pharmaceutical industry, a primary objective for government in the Brexit negotiations should be to secure alignment and cooperation with EU medicines regulation.

The UK is currently part of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which facilitates the harmonisation of medicines regulation for more than 25% of the global pharmaceutical market and over 500 million patients in EU member states, as well as the members of the European Economic Area (EEA)—Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Strong and internationally aligned medicines regulation has been essential for protecting and improving the health of patients, ensuring safety, and fostering advances in medical innovation for large numbers of people with minimal delay and cost.

This needs to continue in order to maintain the availability and supply of medicines from day one, she insisted.

“Could we first and foremost focus on the needs of patients in the way that we discover, manufacture, and move medicines so that they reach patients when they need them?” she asked.

She added that the ABPI had issued its own manifesto the day after the referendum vote on whether to leave the EU and had begun discussions with its members straight away because of the “scale and complexity” of the issues that now needed to be dealt with.

“There are so many factors that affect how we can deliver medicines for patients that are bound up in 30 years of regulatory experience working within the EU regulatory system and our own very integrated supply chains across Europe that we need to be ready from day one,” she insisted.

“Success for us [in negotiations] really means that from day one patients here in the UK don’t miss a beat, and get the medicines they need, and don’t notice [any difference],” she said.

Dr Acha also told the Committee that recently announced government funding for science and innovation was extremely welcome. But for this to be maximised, enabling UK researchers and academics to continue global collaboration should also be a goal of Brexit negotiations.

In line with other leading UK business sectors, she also highlighted that maintaining the ability to trade and move goods and capital across borders, and prioritising ease of movement of global talent for high-value industries, are important for pharmaceutical companies in the UK.

Mike Thompson, ABPI's Chief Executive, commented: "As we lay the foundations for leaving the European Union, last week's autumn statement sent a clear message that a productive high-wage, high-skill economy of the future can be built through investing in UK science and innovation.”

Maintaining the strength of the UK's pharmaceutical industry should therefore be a Brexit priority, he said.

“Government has indicated that they are looking to achieve a bespoke Brexit deal for Britain. As part of this, there are several options for the regulation of medicines. This critical area has a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry, and we are working with government to outline the mutual benefit in striking a deal for the benefit of patients in the UK and patients across Europe,” he added.

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