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Ex-head of EMA "set up consultancy while still in office"

Thomas Lonngren faces criticism from transparency pressure groups

The former head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Thomas Lonngren, is facing criticism for setting up a consultancy business to advise private-sector pharmaceutical clients whilst still employed by the EMA.

Pressure groups - including the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), Formindep and Health Action International (HAI) Europe - have written an open letter to current EMA executive director Guido Rasi seeking a meeting on the issue.

The groups maintain that Lonngren's actions, including the setting up of a company called Pharma Executive Consulting Ltd two months before he left the agency, could amount to a breach of staff regulations governing EU officials.

The new company was located within NDA Regulatory Science Ltd, a consultancy which the pressure groups maintain helps nine out of 10 pharmaceutical companies obtain marketing approval in Europe.

"A relationship between the head of a regulatory body and a private firm advising clients on how to ease regulatory hurdles raises serious concerns about the potential for an abuse of office and could cast doubt on the independence of EMA," say the groups in the open letter.

They also expressed concern about Lonngren's participation in pharmaceutical industry-based networks during and after his executive directorship and suggest that some of his public activities since leaving the EMA imply he continues to formally represent the agency.

They also point to a recent ruling by the European Ombudsman that post-employment activities negotiated while EU officials are in public office can constitute a conflict of interest, and call for the EMA to carry out a clear, systematic appraisal of its authorisation processes for the future activities of former staffers.

Katrina Perehudoff, speaking on behalf of HAI Europe and ALTER-EU, said: "It is hard to see how such a job move does not provoke a conflict of interest with his former responsibilities as an executive director who oversaw the evaluation and approval of medicines."

Meanwhile, Anne Chailleu from Formindep added: "Revolving doors, where the regulated become confused with the regulators, are at the core of NDA's business model."

"Six out of the 10 members of NDA's Advisory Board are former regulators at EMA and other regulatory agencies. Industry is exploiting its links to the European regulatory framework."

20th December 2011

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