A personal take on Brexit

Having only ever blogged about fiction, all of a sudden I’ve been yelling about #Brexit and the EU referendum, and perhaps I should say why. In short, I think leaving the EU could lead to unnecessary suffering in the UK because of the way medicines are sold.

My day job — providing you with medicines

Some of my technical writing involves drug licensing.


It’s fairly simple: medicines need licences before they can be sold, so we get licences to sell medicines, and sick people get better.

In the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, each EU country had independent views on how drugs should be controlled, and getting 28 different licences was slow, expensive, and complicated.

Enter the EU —  after a lot of negotiations, 28 governments agreed to recognise each other’s opinions and approve the same licence per drug.

Medicines reached markets quicker, and saved more lives.  

So if we leave the EU, what happens?

Currently the UK is a gateway to the EU market of 500 million people and we’re often one of the first countries to license a new drug (via the EMA in London). If we pull out of the EU and EMA, we’ll be a standalone population of 65m; drug developers are likely to license in the EU first, and leave us till later.

So will we have to wait longer to get some new, life-saving medicines?

(Feb 2017 update: UK experts estimate 1-2 year delays for new drugs to reach the UK.)

Will British people suffer or die while they wait? 

(This is not the choice of the UK or the EU27: it’s that the research companies will organise licensing and sales to the bigger markets first, smaller markets later, and the EU is bigger than the UK on its own.)

Will we still be able to move/share EU medicines as easily as we do now? 

Don’t know. I asked around: we really don’t know.

And don’t get me started on EU medical research funding.

Brexit might mean we can’t get new medicines as quickly as other EU countries. What will we do if we get cancer and the product we need is available in France and Germany, but not the UK?


Some of us will.



Image attribution: pencils.

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