Health

Amsterdam to be new home of European Medicines Agency

Amsterdam will be the new home of the European Medicines Agency after a down-to-the-wire vote Monday that was settled by drawing names from a bowl.

The decision marks the end of jockeying and speculation that started shortly after the Brexit referendum in June 2016. EU ministers granted Milan and Amsterdam each 13 votes in the final round of voting, leaving the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU to oversee the final selection.

It was a snub for countries in Central and Eastern Europe that have long advocated they should get the EMA because they don’t already host an EU agency. Bratislava was seen as one of the favorites before Monday’s vote, but did not make it past the first round of voting. Slovakia was the only country to abstain from voting in the second and third round, Health Minister Tomáš Drucker confirmed. Milan, Amsterdam and Copenhagen made it into the second round of voting, and Milan and Amsterdam advanced to the third.

In all 19 EU countries initially applied to host the agency, though Malta, Croatia and Ireland withdrew shortly before today’s vote.

Slovakia’s abstention led to the tie between Milan and Amsterdam in the third round.

The EMA is one of the most coveted spoils of Brexit, thanks to its nearly 900 well-paid employees, its role at the heart of the EU drug approval system and the massive research and development industry it feeds. The agency also drives business tourism, with more than 30,000 experts flying in for EMA meetings every year.

Now all eyes will be on Amsterdam, which holds the key to whether the EU’s drug safety agency can move smoothly from London to the Continent without disrupting its work.

Amsterdam’s choice is likely good news for EMA employees, which in a staff survey earlier this year put the city at the top of the list of places they would follow the agency to. More than 80 percent of employees said they would go to Amsterdam if the agency moves there. And EMA’s LGBT employees can also breathe easily following their vocal concerns, since the Netherlands recognizes same-sex marriages.

Amsterdam is still working on its building that would rise in Zuidas, the city’s business district, to host the EMA. The building will be custom-built for EMA’s needs, a similar deal to that which the agency had in London’s Canary Wharf, the Dutch government said earlier this year.

The EMA will pay the market price for rent once it moves in, former Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers said this summer when presenting Amsterdam’s bid in Brussels. The building should be ready by April 2019, but it’s possible that EMA staff would need a temporary location for a short period of time before they move to the new building, Kajsa Ollongren, the deputy mayor of Amsterdam, said at the time.

Pharma and patient groups have called for a seamless transition to ensure that the agency’s work in approving drugs across the EU is not affected. They welcomed the announcement that the agency would relocate to Amsterdam.

The EMA itself earlier this month called for a joint governance structure to be set up with the successful country and promised “full visibility” of the relocation effort, including a “monitoring chart” to track progress.

Sarah Wheaton contributed reporting.

Original Article

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