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Brexit could delay key drugs to UK patients, ex-MHRA chairman claims

Published on 10/02/17 at 09:46am

Former UK regulator and ex-chairman of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Sir Alasdair Breckenridge has warned that Britain’s exit from the EU could lead to delays in key treatments reaching patients if it also chooses to divorce itself from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Breckenridge told the BBC: "The UK market compared to the European market of course is small and they may decide not to come to the United Kingdom. So therefore there will be delay in getting new drugs - important new drugs, anti-cancer drugs, anti-infective drugs - for patients in the UK."

 The Department of Health however has asserted that Brexit could bring about new negotiations to secure treatments for UK patients in a timelier manner, stating: “Brexit brings opportunities in this area, and we will be focused on whether we can secure even faster access to the latest innovations for British patients. So we are already taking action to ensure the UK continues to be a world leader and our cross-agency Brexit taskforce is considering the future regulatory roles the MHRA could adopt."

The EMA’s relocation looks increasingly inevitable with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt conceding to MPs in January, “I think it’s likely EU countries will want to move its HQ outside the UK,” adding that the 900 UK jobs associated with the agency would be likely to be axed too.

The prospect has been firmly on the industry’s lips, with many top pharma execs weighing in on the issue.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot commented on the issue, saying: “It is logical to assume that the EMA will have to stay in Europe, and that the UK will have to have its own agency, but I think here this can work quite well actually, provided that several things happen,” calling on the UK to pursue close ties with the European agency.

Eisai Vice President David Jeffreys has a more bleak view on the UK’s future prospects, however.

"The early innovative medicines will be applied for in the USA, in Japan and through the European system and the UK will be in the second or indeed the third wave,” he explained. “So UK patients may be getting medicines 12, 18, 24 months later than they would if we remained in the European system."

Matt Fellows

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