From out of the mists of confusion created by the European Medicines Agency’s initial ineptitude in seeking a new head – its first job advert in German was wrongly directed at physicists and not physicians – an apparent savior has charged: Guido Rasi, current Director General of the Italian medicines agency, AIFA. The reaction of delegates at the OTC-focused AESGP meeting in Rome (where this blogger is currently reporting for "The Tan Sheet") to his nomination as EMA's next Executive Director is one of relief. Rasi, it appears, is whiter than white.
Unlike some of his AIFA predecessors, perhaps. Rasi's appointment to the top position of AIFA in 2008 came after its previous head, Nello Martini, was removed after being charged with “culpable disaster” (he was indeed acquitted in 2010). Martini's alleged crime, as deemed by public prosecutors at the time, was to have delayed the updating of pharmaceutical packaging and labeling where in fact a brief rewording of the documentation would have been appropriate. At the time, this resulted in delays to access and greatly angered the pharmaceutical industry.
But worse still were the crimes of Duilio Poggiolini, another former head of the Italian committee for drug registration, a forerunner of AIFA, who was accused of amassing a fortune in the region of CHF15 billion ($18 billion). The story goes that when police lifted floorboards in his house, they found underneath millions of Liras worth of gold bullion. (Lira was the pre-Euro Italian currency, for those of you with shorter memories).
And so Rasi was brought in to balance the ship and restore credibility to the medicines authority. An academic and physician by profession – until his AIFA appointment, he held a series of high-profile posts at various research institutes in Rome – he was credited with speeding up the drug registration process and thereby patient access.
The European Commission may have found a man to set the EMA’s house in order, but also one who will toe the line. The word in pharma circles is that he can be told to do things, but that he will then do them his own way.
-- Faraz Kermani