Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark have sought to reassure the pharmaceutical industry that the UK will maintain a “close working relationship” with the European Union after Brexit, amid concerns about the regulation of medicines.
Health Secretary Mr Hunt and Business Secretary Mr Clark said the UK would “like to find a way” to continue to collaborate with the EU after breaking away from Brussels. The EU’s European Medicines Agency is currently based in London, but will leave the country after Brexit, creating uncertainty for UK-based pharmaceutical firms about the regulatory regime for drugs in future.
In a joint letter in the Financial Times, the ministers said: “The UK is fully committed to continuing the close working relationship with our European partners. Our aim is to ensure that patients in the UK and across the EU continue to be able to access the best and most innovative medicines and be assured that their safety is protected through the strongest regulatory framework and sharing of data.”
Their three principles for the Brexit process are that “patients should not be disadvantaged; innovators should be able to get their products into the UK market as quickly and simply as possible; and we continue to play a leading role promoting public health”. If the Brexit talks fail to achieve the “desired relationship”, the UK will set up a regulatory system that protects patients and “supports the UK life science industry”.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said the letter signalled that ministers were ready to take a “pragmatic” approach to Brexit. ABPI chief executive Mike Thompson said “This letter is a welcome recognition that the future of medicines regulation is a key priority for the Government as we negotiate a new relationship with the EU.
“It also signals a readiness to take a pragmatic approach to Brexit negotiations that puts people’s health first. This is a great first step and we look forward to seeing more detail in the coming weeks and months.
“If patients in Europe are to continue to get safe and effective medicines in a timely fashion, the focus must be on agreeing regulatory partnership between the UK and the EU.
“The time frames we need to meet to ensure no disruption or delay mean that confirmation of a reciprocal approach from the EU would provide welcome certainty to more than 500 million patients.”