By Ben Hirschler
Britain's departure from the European Union would threaten scientific research and jeopardise the 28-nation bloc's system of drug regulation, the European pharmaceutical industry says.
The declaration on Wednesday is the clearest statement yet on the issue by an industry that includes EU-based players such as Britain's GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, France's Sanofi and Germany's Bayer.
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) said Britain's continued EU membership was in the best interests of a strong life sciences sector both in the UK and across Europe.
Particular concerns about a so-called Brexit centre on the future of the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approves medicines for all EU countries and might have to move to a new location if Britain left.
But there are also worries about the impact on biomedical research, given the leading role of British scientists and universities in European research programs.
"Pharmaceutical companies across Europe face considerable uncertainty at the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. Brexit has the potential to impact on regulation, the status of the EMA, finance, employment, the transfer of personal data and the European research ecosystem," the EFPIA said in a statement provided to Reuters.
"The decision to leave or remain within the EU is a decision for UK citizens, however, EFPIA firmly believes that the UK's continued membership of the EU is in the best interests of a strong life sciences sector in the UK and Europe."
The pound hit a seven-year lows on Wednesday as concerns intensified that Britons could vote to leave the EU in a June referendum, with the latest poll showing the "In" camp is ahead but the gap has narrowed.
The leaders of nearly 200 companies threw their weight behind the "In" campaign in a letter published in the Times newspaper on Tuesday. They included 36 FTSE 100 firms, among them AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.