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EU drugs agency move to Amsterdam minimises likely staff losses

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Amsterdam's success in winning the battle to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is relocating from London because of Brexit, was welcomed by drug manufacturers on Monday hoping for the least disruption due to staff losses at the regulator.

Amsterdam was the most popular of 19 potential new homes for the drugs watchdog in a recent survey of staff, with 81 percent of them saying they would be willing to move to the Dutch city.

Based in London since 1995, with a staff of around 890, the EMA acts as a one-stop-shop for approving and monitoring the safety of drugs across Europe. It is being uprooted because it must be headquartered in an EU country.

EuropaBio, representing Europe's biotech sector, said it was happy to see Amsterdam selected.

"Now (Frankfurt: 11N.F - news) that we have more clarity, it is vital that the relocation of the EMA will be carried out in such a way as to minimise as much as possible any disruptions that could negatively affect access to medicines for patients," said John Brennan, the group's secretary general.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's head Mike Thompson said the focus now "should switch to how patient safety and effective public health can be maintained during this complex transition and into the future".

The EMA's executive director Guido Rasi had warned that access to new medicines and safety checks on existing treatments would be jeopardised if politicians picked a new home for the regulator that was unacceptable to staff.

The loss of the EMA is a blow to Britain, which had at one stage hoped to retain the organisation and its hundreds of highly skilled jobs, despite the fact Britain will leave the EU in March 2019.

"London’s loss is Amsterdam’s gain," said Steve Bates, CEO of Britain’s BioIndustry Association.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter)

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