EMA to temporarily scale back and suspend activities as more staff than anticipated quit ahead of Brexit relocation

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has stated that they will further scale back operations as staff who do not intend to relocate to Amsterdam next year begin to leave the agency. The EMA notes that they expect staff departures to accelerate as the move to Amsterdam in March 2019 approaches. The agency explained that the temporary cuts in activities are necessary because the EMA expects to lose more staff than initially anticipated.

An initial survey of EMA staff that was conducted ahead of the European Council’s vote to determine the agency’s new home found that Amsterdam was the most favoured location by staff, and only 19% reported that they would not relocate. However, the EMA now expects to lose 30% of their staff and they are uncertain about mid-term staff retention once operations begin in Amsterdam. Furthermore, the EMA will not be able to bring around 135 short-term contract employees with them in the move due to employment rules in the Netherlands.

To prepare for the departures, the EMA states that they have launched a comprehensive staff recruitment program, but for now the EMA will need to “reprioritise its resources to fully maintain its core activities,” such as reviewing marketing authorisation applications and overseeing safety surveillance.

The EMA plans to scale back additional non-core activities by 1st October 2018. The EMA will continue to focus on product specific issues and will continue to carry out Article 58 procedures, but will decrease their role in harmonisation efforts and will take on other global public health issues on a case-by-case basis. The EMA also plans to halt the publication and revision of guidelines, apart from those that address an urgent public or animal health need, or those that are directly related to Brexit. Furthermore, the EMA will stop launching new procedures related to clinical data publication as of August, but plans to process all data packages that were submitted through July 2018.

The EMA plans to launch the next phase of their business continuity plan on 1st October 2018 at the latest. The EMA hopes this will allow them to safeguard core activities related to the evaluation and supervision of medicines, and cope with significant staff loss as preparations for the physical move to Amsterdam in March 2019 take place. The EMA will need time to allow for training of EMA staff who will be re-assigned to new duties ahead of the peak relocation time, which the EMA plans to start in early 2019.

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