Can Health Research Survive Brexit?

The United Kingdom’s Brexit saga has captured the attention of the world.  But it’s also sparked concerns among British patients, researchers and health care advocates, who are asking: How will health research and innovation fare after the UK severs ties with the European Union?

Research on cardiovascular disease provides an apt example.  According to the European Heart Network, the EU granted more than 1 billion euros for cardiovascular disease research between 2007 and 2018.  That funding has supported research into fighting coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, aortic and vascular diseases. It has also advanced the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.  

The UK has been an active participant – and beneficiary – of the research.  Describing the UK as a “highly valued partner in EU research,” the European Heart Network called for new funding rules that would allow ties between the UK and EU research communities to remain intact. 

The European Heart Network is not alone in its concerns.  The Brexit Health Alliance has identified three areas of concern about how health care and health research will work after the United Kingdom’s exit.  They include:

  1. The UK’s ability to participate in, and receive funding from, EU programmes – as well as continued collaboration on disease research and treatment discovery
  2. Patients, researchers and health care providers’ ability to travel and work freely across both the UK and the EU
  3. The ability of patients in both the UK and the EU to continue to benefit from clinical trials.

The organisation calls for a straightforward UK migration system to welcome researchers and patients, as well as a cooperative model for research funding.  The group also encourages continued UK participation in European Reference Networks for rare diseases and for harmonised frameworks to continue maximising the benefit of clinical trials research.

As Brexit’s October 31 deadline looms, one thing’s certain.  Patients, researchers and advocates are eager for Europe’s robust research community to stay intact, even as geopolitical bonds dissolve.

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