EMA Expects Loss of Staff in Brexit Move; Updates Continuity Plan

By Akia Thorpe -

August 2, 2018

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced it is expecting a 30% loss in staff as it prepares to move its headquarters to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a move it is making as part of its preparations for the United Kingdom's (UK) withdrawal from the European Union (EU) (i.e., Brexit).

In preparation for the move, the EMA plans to launch the next phase of its business continuity plan on October 1, 2018 at the latest. This is expected to allow the agency to safeguard core activities related to the evaluation and supervision of medicines while it prepares for the agency’s move to Amsterdam in March 2019 and copes with what the agency terms as “significant” staff loss.

“The temporary cuts in activities are required because it has also become clear that the agency will lose more staff than initially anticipated,” the EMA said in an August 1, 2018 agency statement. “Staff who will not relocate to Amsterdam have already started to leave the Agency, and this trend is expected to accelerate. In addition, due to the employment rules in the Netherlands, 135 short-term contract staff will no longer be able to work for [the] EMA. Overall, [the] EMA expects a staff loss of about 30%, with a high degree of uncertainty regarding mid-term staff retention.”

The EMA reports it has put in place supporting measures to facilitate the relocation of staff to Amsterdam, and additional support is being provided by the Dutch government. Other mitigating actions, such as a staff-recruitment program, are also underway. In the short- to mid-term, the EMA says it will have to reprioritize its resources to fully maintain its core activities related to the evaluation and supervision of medicines to the level of quality and within the timelines expected.

Following the implementation of Phase 1 and 2 of the business continuity plan, in Phase 3 the EMA says it will start to temporarily scale back or suspend additional activities through to 2019. This is expected to contribute to protecting the EMA’s essential public health activities and allow for training of EMA staff who will be re-assigned to new duties ahead of the peak relocation time, which will start in early 2019.

Overall, activities initially impacted by Phase 3 include: international collaboration, which will be temporarily scaled back to focus on issues such as product-related requests and supply-chain integrity; development and revision of guidelines, which will be temporarily limited to those that address an urgent public/animal health need; and clinical data publication, for which the launch of new procedures will be temporarily suspended.

The EMA says detailed plans for the implementation of these measures are currently being developed and will be communicated to stakeholders concerned and the public as soon as they are available.

Source: European Medicines Agency