Open Medicine EU

Within weeks of his retirement as Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, Thomas Lonnegren was appointed to the board of NDA a “regulatory and market access business” and has also joined a number of other industry groups CBio, Novo Nordisk, LUNDBECK A/S. The appointments were approved at least by the chairman or the board of the agency.

Concerns about conflict of interest in this case were voiced in a letter to Commissioner Dalli from Alter-EU, BEUC, EPHA, HAI and ISDB.

I intend to write at more length later about conflict of interest, which is a difficult and complex issue, but here are a few preliminary thoughts.

Personal integrity is of course vital but is not in itself a complete answer in a potential conflict of interest. Some conflicts of interest should be avoided, even for persons of the highest integrity (and maybe especially for such people if they wish to keep their reputation for probity intact).

How is this relevant in the present case? Well, it seems to me that public confidence in a regulatory agency (the EMA) is bound to be weakened when a senior regulator moves immediately to a regulated industry, and especially so when that move is approved by the chairman or board of the regulator.

(A move at such short notice also raises the question as to whether negotiations had begun while the Executive Director was still in office.)

None of this is to question in any way the integrity of the people involved.

In my opinion, the former Executive Director, the Chairman and the Board of the agency have done the agency a disservice in this case.

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