LONDON/STOCKHOLM Sweden should become the new home of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) if Britons vote to leave the European Union in a June referendum, according to the head of the Swedish pharmaceutical association.
The agency, which approves medicines for all EU countries, has been based in London since it started in 1995. However, a so-called Brexit would leave Europe's equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outside the bloc and could force a move.
Shifting to Sweden would make sense, given the country's scientific strength and the leading role Swedish experts already play in European drug regulation, said Anders Blanck, director general of the LIF group representing research-based drugmakers.
"If the referendum in the UK results in a 'no' to the EU, the government should immediately launch an intensive lobbying campaign to make Sweden the new host country for the EMA," Blanck wrote in the latest newsletter of the LIF trade group.
"My advice is to already now begin planning for how such lobbying could be done. We in the pharmaceutical industry would gladly help with full force ... an EMA in Sweden would be a major boost for the entire life science field."
Sweden's claims to eminence in the pharmaceutical and healthcare arena include the fact that it is home to the Karolinska Institute, which awards the Nobel prize in medicine.
It has also seen significant investment recently by multinational groups such as AstraZeneca and GE Healthcare.
The EMA and the European Commission have both declined to comment on what would happen to the agency in the event of a Brexit, but Blanck said the medicines watchdog and its 600 staff would have no choice but to leave London.
Many pharmaceutical executives also see a move as inevitable and they fear that a British "Out" vote would disrupt healthcare regulation in the world's biggest trading bloc.
Concerns about the EMA contributed to a decision by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations this week to warn against Britain leaving the EU.
(Editing by Mark Potter)