Politics / Law
EMA under fire from MEPs
London – In mid-May, the European Medicines Agency was under pressure from the European Parliament, which postponed signing off on its accounts for the financial year 2009. The decision came on the heels of a critical report from the EU’s Budgetary Control Committee complaining that there was no guarantee ensuring the independence of experts hired to carry out scientific evaluations of human medicines at the agency. More eyebrows were raised when – just two weeks after he left the EMA – former chief Thomas Lönngren took a position as a strategic consultant with the UK-based NDA Group that advises pharmaceutical companies on developing new medications and reducing the length of time to market introduction. Lönngren also joined the board of the Australian drug developer CBio, and took on a post as a strategic advisor to VC specialist Essex Woodlands. In March, the EMA then stated that Lönngren will have to wait at least two years before taking other positions in the pharmaceutical industry. However, the conflict-of-interest policy seems to have loopholes in not defining exactly what kinds of post-EMA activities in the pharma sector or industry associations are acceptable. The agency has now been asked by the European Parliament to provide a report by June 30th listing all “comparable cases” of (ex)staff associations with pharma companies that have occurred since the creation of the agency, explaining in detail the management board’s decision in each case.
The move came at the right time to draw attention from the revelation that some MEPs might sell their votes. A recent operation showed that some MEPs were willing to sell votes to British journalists pretending to be lobbyists who asked them what a vote would cost. In May, the European Parliament greenlighted the establishment of a transparency register aimed at monitoring any payments from lobbyists to MEPs or European Commission staff. Although a step forward, the move is not legally binding.