(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union poses a threat to research and development, Roche Holding AG Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan said.

The Swiss drugmaker, which expects to introduce five new medicines this year alone, said access to the newest treatments will need to continue if the U.K. wants to be seen as an innovation hub.

“If certain really cutting-edge, innovative medicines are not available in the U.K. and are not part of the standard of care, this hampers research and development,” Schwan told reporters on a call following the company’s half-year results Thursday. “This is really, really the critical part.”

Roche, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, has lambasted the U.K. for calling into question and stopping reimbursement of some its tumor-fighting treatments. If it leaves the EU, the country would have to set up its own system for approving drugs for sale, a job now done for bloc members by the European Medicines Agency. That could put U.K. patients at risk of not getting access to medicines as quickly as they do elsewhere in Europe.

While Schwan sounded a warning, he also said leaving the EU could result in a new U.K. system that gets medicines to patients more quickly than it does now.

“Perhaps it’s an opportunity,” Schwan said. “Perhaps we look back in a couple of years and the U.K. now, being on its own if you like, on the regulatory front and on the access front, takes a more holistic approach, which ultimately would benefit patients.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Johannes Koch in Berlin at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at, Kristen Hallam, Marthe Fourcade

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