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Drug agency aims for European agreement

Switzerland needs an urgent agreement with the European regulatory authorities to avoid delays in introducing new medicines, the Swiss health minister says.

The government has asked Swissmedic, the Swiss regulatory body, to start negotiations with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) in order to give it access to the EMEA's confidential data, the minister, Didier Burkhalter, told journalists on Friday.

This will greatly speed up the approval process of new drugs.

Had such an agreement already been in place, it would have avoided the recent three-week delay in making the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix available in Switzerland.

Talks with the European side had been underway for some time, but had not been regarded as a priority, said Burkhalter. The current swine flu pandemic had now made an agreement a matter of urgency.

Swissmedic already has agreements with its counterpart organisations in the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

Burkhalter said the move was a first step in the government's efforts to improve its policy towards the swine flu pandemic. A commission of experts is currently being set up to examine this policy in more detail.

Meanwhile, the vaccination campaign is going well, he said. Vaccinations will be available for all who want them in all cantons in the next few days. It is estimated that so far up to 20 per cent of the population have had a flu jab. and agencies


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