A ‘softer’ Brexit?

U.K. government’s narrow defeat on amendment in withdrawal bill could have wide impact

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LONDON—The U.K. government’s narrow defeat in November on amendment seven of the European Union withdrawal bill, demanding that Parliament have a binding vote on the final Brexit deal, has fueled debate on whether the United Kingdom could now be heading for a softer Brexit and what impact this will have on leading industries like U.K. pharmas, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics company.
A recent webinar by GlobalData brought together industry leaders to review the reputational, economic and R&D implications of Brexit for the U.K. pharma sector.
From a reputational point of view, the U.K.’s status as a first-tier drugs market could come to an end and its regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), may no longer serve as a model to other agencies.
Jennifer C. Smith-Parker, healthcare editor EMEA at GlobalData, commented, “The U.K. has already lost The European Medicines Agency (EMA) which will relocate from London to Amsterdam in the wake of Brexit. However, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the U.K.’s drug pricing watchdog, will likely continue to serve as an international model due to the organization’s expertise in drug pricing and reimbursement.”
Economically, the United Kingdom will remain an important market, but depending on the outcome of negotiations, specifically in regards to regulation of drugs, the nation may experience delays in its ability to launch new products. MHRA, or a new agency that may form post-Brexit, may have to take on marketing authorization, orphan drug approvals and small and medium enterprise designations. Sharing pharmacovigilance data is a key concern for U.K. pharma R&D in the post-Brexit environment.
As far as research and development issues go, despite Merck opening a $1.3-billion research hub in London recently, much of the country’s life-sciences R&D work could be driven to the continent, as exiting the single market and potential immigration restrictions will make the United Kingdom a less attractive place for drug firms. Any perception that the country has become less hospitable to migrant workers and overseas researchers due to Brexit will make it more difficult to recruit and retain R&D talent, impacting pharma operations.
Smith-Parker agreed with another webinar contributor, Steve Bradshaw, managing director at Valid Insight, who added: “Ultimately, what changes will take place as a result of Brexit remains the great unknown, but change brings opportunities to spearhead positive reform and new ways to attract investment. The opportunity to strengthen relationships between the National Health Service, industry and government should also be explored to further the U.K.’s role as a center for medical research and build the infrastructure to accelerate bringing better medicines to patients who need them.”

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