Roche CEO Severin Schwan suggests Brexit could harm drug development

Roche chief executive Severin Schwan on Thursday argued that the UK's move to leave the EU could cause the country to fall further behind in drug development. "The UK would get markedly less competitive and less interesting for the industry as a life science hub," Schwan stated, adding "for us, this is a very relevant question and if the regulatory system should not keep up with Europe, then this would be a big issue for us." 

Schwan explained that in theory, the UK could use its European exit as an opportunity to create an independent drug regulator that reviewed drugs more rapidly than the European Medicines Agency. However, the CEO warned that such a move would require significant government investment in terms of both staff and resources. 

​The news comes as Schwan criticised the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence's decision that Roche's Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is not cost-effective for treating early primary progressive multiple sclerosis. The CEO stated that the decision illustrates that NICE's approach to drug evaluation "deeply needs to be overhauled.​

Schwan​ further​ noted that the UK already carries the "reputation of being the most restrictive environment for innovative medicines because of pricing." The executive continued "typically, it's UK residents who get medicines latest." 

Meanwhile, Schwan revealed that Roche is increasing its drug stockpiles ahead of Brexit, in line with guidance from the UK's Department of Health and Social Care. A number of other drugmakers, including AstraZeneca as well as Novartis and Sanofi, have also announced similar moves. 

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