Continued participation in EU-wide clinical trials and the Horizon 2020 research programme is ‘vital’ to the UK’s life sciences sector, according to a new cross-party report by UK MPs.
The report published by the House of Commons Health committee on Wednesday (21 March) also urges EU and UK negotiators to agree to align regulation on medicines and health care.
“In order to minimise harm to their citizens, both the UK and the EU-27 should look to secure the closest possible regulatory alignment in the next round of the Brexit negotiations,” said the Chair of the Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP.
“Failure to do so would signal a triumph of ideology over the best interests of patients,” she added.
On Friday morning, EU leaders are expected to sign off on a 21 month transition period starting after the UK formally leaves the EU next March, a move that is expected to start the process of talks on future relations.
However, the European life sciences and pharmaceutical industry has warned that Brexit could lead to long delays in UK patients accessing new drugs and treatments.
Industry bosses have also expressed concern that the potential impact of the UK’s exit from the EU has been largely ignored so far in the Article 50 talks, warning that they face multi-million euro contingency costs, regardless of whether a successor trade agreement is struck.
‘It is vital that the UK life sciences sector is able to continue to participate in Europe-wide clinical trials. If the UK does not adopt the new clinical trials regulations and is unable to access the EU infrastructure developed within the EU to underpin them, difficulties for patients and the life science industry could emerge,’ the report warns.
The report adds that the UK ‘should seek to continue to be a member of EU Research and Development (R&D) funding and research mechanisms such as Horizon 2020 after leaving the EU, if possible on the same terms as it currently enjoys.’
That would mean continued UK contributions to the EU budget.
‘Further contingency planning on the impact on the supply chain of a failure to achieve free and frictionless trade in pharmaceutical products.
In a speech in February, Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that the UK would likely seek associate membership of several EU regulatory agencies, including the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is leaving its London headquarters for Amsterdam in 2019.
No other third country outside the Single Market is currently a member of EU agencies. Current guidance from the EMA assumes that there will be ‘no deal’ from the talks.