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Brexit: Implications for the Pharma Industry in Ireland

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Brexit: Implications for the Pharma Industry in Ireland

Brexit: Implications for the Pharma Industry in Ireland
October 27
10:10 2017

The UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU in May 2016 undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout Europe. European countries are still struggling to interpret what ‘Brexit’ will mean for them. Ireland, as the UK’s closest neighbour both culturally and geographically, has been grappling with the potential impacts.

However, there are potential major opportunities for the healthcare and life sciences sector in the medium-to long-term in Ireland. With Ireland’s strong foundation in the life science sector, the UK’s decision to leave the EU can in fact create opportunities for the Irish sector to develop even further.

The pharmaceutical industry is a very valuable part of the Irish economy. Ten of the world’s top ten biggest pharmaceutical companies are located in Ireland and annual exports of pharmaceutical, bio pharmaceuticals and chemistry produce are valued at €39bn. Ireland has seen an increase in pharmaceutical global distribution and supply chain activities being located within Ireland in recent years. Due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies already have such a strong foothold in Ireland currently, companies may choose to strengthen this foothold in the Brexit aftermath.

Ireland will have the advantage of being the only English-speaking country in the European Union. As English is the business language in Europe, this is a significant advantage. This stands as an advantage in terms of fostering deeper relationships with the US and for Ireland to develop its role as a culturally, linguistically and economically straightforward gateway to Europe for US firms.  Ireland is in a fortunate position where it is possible to communicate with the West Coast of the US and Australia in the same day.

The EU has already decided that the European Medicines Agency, which regulates which drugs can be sold across the EU, must be relocated from the UK as a result of the Brexit decision.  EU member states including Ireland, have formally indicated their interest in accommodating the agency. With cities such as Rome, Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Lille, and Copenhagen as contenders, the competition is tough.  The Health Minister, Simon Harris, highlighted the probable seamlessness of a transition to Dublin as an important asset in Ireland’s bid; stating that “proximity to London is key” and offers the “best chance” of minimising staff turnover. If Ireland is successful, it would offer Ireland a great opportunity to cement the country as a life sciences hub. A decision will be taken in November 2017.

The full after-effects of Brexit on the Irish pharmaceutical industry will lack full clarity,  until the details of the UK’s deal with the EU are announced and Brexit actually takes place.

The EMA and UK government have both now made their positions clear. The EMA issued resolute statements regarding the UK becoming a “third country” and the APIs manufactured in the UK will need “Written Confirmation”

The UK government has published a position paper on the possible future trade of goods between the UK and the EU.

In this paper, the British government is looking, for example, for the continuous recognition of marketing authorisations, registrations and certifications of goods (including medicinal products). The UK aims to “avoid the unnecessary disruptive transfer of activities between the EU and the United Kingdom“, especially if such activities have to be duplicated for both markets.

The involved parties have made their positions clear now. Where the solution lies is still an unknown, most likely somewhere in the middle of the two positions.

As long as capital investment continues to flow into the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland, the industry should prove resilient to the potential impacts of Brexit and can even hope to improve on its already outstanding performance as a healthcare and life sciences hub.


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