In a press release issued on August 1, 2017, The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that it “has developed and initiated a business continuity plan to deal with the uncertainty and workload implications linked to the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) withdrawal from the European Union (EU) and the Agency’s relocation”. It was indicated the plan is intended to “preserve Agency’s ability to protect public and animal health”.
The plan outlines 3 categories of EMA activities and prioritizes them “according to their impact on public health and the Agency’s ability to function”.
Category 1, the highest priority activities, includes those related to the assessment and safety monitoring of medicines such as actions taken to protect patient safety and inspections across the EU, or activities vital to maintaining the infrastructure and functionality of the EU regulatory system for medicines such as security of critical IT applications. EMA stated, “It is absolutely crucial to uphold these activities as any disruption would almost immediately have a detrimental effect on the health and well being of citizens in Europe and would also jeopardize production and distribution of medicines in the EU”.
Category 2 activities include the proactive publication of clinical data, various initiatives aimed at promoting availability of medicines, and projects such as EMA’s contribution to the fight against antimicrobial resistance or the Agency’s interactions with Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies. EMA indicated, “These activities will be maintained for as long as possible, workload and staffing situation permitting, in order to maintain the development of new medicines”.
However, in order to reallocate personnel for preparations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and EMA’s relocation, EMA has already begun to suspend activities in what it terms category 3 including:
- “the development of the European Medicines Web Portal, a new publicly-available online information intended to be a single-source for information on all medicines marketed in the EU;
- EMA’s contribution to the e-submission project that will allow applicants to electronically submit documents linked to authorization requests for human and veterinary medicines in a secure and efficient way;
- the development of a transparency roadmap for EMA that lays out future transparency measures of the Agency; and
- participation in the benchmarking of medicines regulatory authorities in the EU as of 2018.”
EMA said it was also reducing the number of audits, some corporate governance and support activities, EMA meetings and workshops, and participation of EMA staff in external meetings or conferences.
EMA said it will consider “how long these activities can be put on hold before they start to seriously undermine the quality of the Agency’s work and its planning, and the expectations of stakeholders”. However, the press release concludes rather ominously stating, “Further iterations of the business continuity plan will also take into account various scenarios for staff losses and how these may affect the delivery of category 1 and 2 activities. Unexpected higher, faster or more permanent loss of staff as a consequence of the Agency’s relocation may lead to a situation in which EMA’s operations can no longer be maintained.”
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