Denmark joins the race to host EU drug agency after Brexit

The Danish government on Wednesday teamed up with the former head of drug company Novo Nordisk in its campaign to become the new host of the London-based European Medicines Agency after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“EMA should be situated in a place where there is a strong tradition of putting the patient in focus… We have that in Denmark,” said Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen in a statement.

Denmark is not the only country courting to EMA and will compete with offers from other EU members including Sweden, Spain, France and Poland.

Denmark is home to a cluster of pharmaceutical and biotech companies including companies like Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest diabetes drug maker, Lundbeck and Genmab.

The government appointed former Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen as a special envoy being tasked with promoting the Danish offer.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is a European Union agency for the evaluation of medicinal products. Prior to 2004, it was known as the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA).

Roughly parallel to the drug part of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but without centralisation, the EMA was set up in 1995 with funding from the European Union and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as indirect subsidy from member states, in an attempt to harmonise (but not replace) the work of existing national medicine regulatory bodies. The hope was that this plan would not only reduce the €350 million annual cost drug companies incurred by having to win separate approvals from each member state but also that it would eliminate the protectionist tendencies of sovereign states unwilling to approve new drugs that might compete with those already produced by domestic drug companies. The EU is currently the source of about one-third of the new drugs brought onto the world market each year.

Based in London, the EMA was founded after more than seven years of negotiations among EU governments and replaced the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products and the Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products, though both of these were reborn as the core scientific advisory committees. After the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union referendum the agency’s future basing in the United Kingdom is uncertain.