The aftermath from the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is only first being digested the world over. As with so many other sectors, there are implications for the pharmaceutical industry. Some 70,000 people in the UK work for drug makers, including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, which are based there. Will companies want to shift substantial portions of their operations elsewhere? The European Medicines Agency, which oversees product approvals, is also headquartered in London, raising questions about the ability of the UK’s own regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, to fill that role. Then there is concern about government support for basic research. We spoke with Michael Thompson, who heads the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the large trade group, about these unknowns. This is an edited version of our conversation.
Pharmalot: What’s your primary concern right now?
Thompson: Well, it’s important to keep in mind this is going to take two years to unwind. The referendum is advisory, not binding. The UK is going through a changing government, and a new government will then start a process of negotiations. It’s clear that even the people who want to leave don’t want to create some sort of island with a drawbridge drawn up. They still want some relationship with the European Union, such as an “associate membership.” There’s a lot to work through with the pharma sector. But it’s likely some people will think twice about investment in the UK, if that investment is intended to have a broader reach.