EMA investigates conflicts of interest involving officials and pharma

Europe's top drug regulator has another kerfuffle on its hands after its top lawyer jumped ship and landed at a law firm that advises drugmakers. The European Medicines Agency has begun a probe into conflicts of interests at the organization having already been hit with complains about the "revolving door" between the agency and pharma-related outfits, the Financial Times reported.

As the FT points out, Vincenzo Salvatore last month joined the European life sciences practice of law firm Sidley Austin, only a week after ending his stint as the EMA's top lawyer. While Salvatore says EMA brass signed off on his move, the agency's executive director, Guido Rasi, tells the newspaper that he never cleared the Italian lawyer's career change. And now the agency has convened a committee to inspect potential conflicts of interest.

The agency hasn't quite recovered from the backlash of ex-EMA Executive Director Thomas Lönngren's quick transition from chief drug regulator to pharma industry consultant. Now Salvatore has brought his experience at the agency to a law practice that, as the FT reports, assists life sciences companies with regulatory issues.

"Where there is a proposed job move which creates the risk of a conflict of interest, there should be a cooling-off period of up to two years," Vicky Cann, of watchdog group the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, said, as quoted by the FT. "We don't have enough information at this stage. It has raised a number of questions in my mind."

- get more in the FT article

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