Thomas’s story

Thomas works in pharmacovigilance and explains what he does. “In layman’s terms we make sure that medicines that enter the European market are safe and effective. But we also try to optimize how to do this in the most effective way. Once a medicine is launched we make sure, based on real life data from doctors, patients, insurances and so on, that they keep their promise of what is written on the package and used as safely as possible. When people go to a doctor, the information about what’s prescribed to whom and for what disease is all stored in databases. We pull on this data to monitor if medicines are used according to the label and combine this information with reports on side effects that we get from patients and doctors. We even go a step further and not only look at the intended but also potentially unintended consequences of medicine use in daily healthcare. When we find out that a medicine might not work as expected for certain patients, we provide this feedback to our scientific committees that decide which medicine comes on the European market and appropriate regulatory action is taken to protect patients. We call this risk management to ensure the balance between benefits and risks of a medicine remains favourable.”

Thomas says that most people don’t know much about what it is that EMA does. “When buying a medicine consumers usually don’t know what role EMA has played in the whole process from developing, licensing and marketing a medicine. The basic fundamental work we do is making sure that patients get the safe and effective medicines they need. I think it’s hugely important work that we do and I’m proud to contribute to that.”

Working at EMA means working in a unique setting, says Thomas. “It’s a truly multicultural organization. There are so many people with different cultural background working under the same roof. That is just fantastic. We all may have different views on politics, on science, on what is important in life but we all learn a lot from each other and exchange experiences. That enriches my life.”

“Joining the Agency to Amsterdam was quite clear.”

For Thomas, joining the Agency in relocating to Amsterdam was not a tough decision. “I think a lot depends on where you are with your career and the personal circumstances. I’ve been working for the Agency for 14 years  and for me it was quite clear from the very first moment that I would relocate to Amsterdam, and I didn’t want Brexit to impact on my career.”

“Finding an adequate home was important for me.”

Finding a home
“Now I live in Amsterdam in an upcoming area called Houthavens, the former harbour area on the banks of the IJ river. It’s very close to the centre and well connected to public transport. Moving away from London also required finding an adequate home, that was very important for me.”

Thomas says that finding a new home was a complicated tour at first. “On my first relocation visit I met my relocation agent for a coffee and she spontaneously said: ‘Why don’t you look at Houthavens?’ I had never heard about it before that moment. And then we cycled there. At the time it was still more like a construction site and I said:  I don’t want to live here. But then almost a year later I went back there to give it a second chance and I changed my mind.”

“I was prepared for a change.”

Positive change
“The biggest surprise for me was that the bus driver greets everyone. It’s very personal. In the Netherlands it seems easier to get into contact with people, everyone seems more relaxed compared to London. Also what I did not expect is the efficiency of the cycle lane system, it’s incredibly fast to get around by bike. That is a change that I find very positive. Apart from that I was prepared for a change. I expected everything to be different.”

“The Agency did an excellent job with the relocation.”

The relocation of the organization
Thomas says that the Agency did an excellent job with supporting staff for the relocation to the Netherlands. “I was very positively surprised that shortly after it was announced that Amsterdam would become EMA’s seat the Dutch government was already represented in our general assembly. From the first day they were very reassuring and EMA’s senior management promised that they would do anything possible to guide and support us. And they really did so.”

Looking forward
“I’m looking forward to learning Dutch. I can read most of it already. It helps a lot being German, but speaking Dutch is still tough. I believe that you have to speak the language in order to make new friends. We have a fine community at the housing complex where I live. We have a WhatsApp group. Every day people are chatting but they use a different kind of Dutch than what I learned in the introductory course. These short messages are not always easy to understand. I will resume the language course in order to gain a better level. I also look forward to exploring the country because until now I was busy setting up my house. And last but not least I’m looking forward to moving into the new office building in Zuidas. I pass by it sometimes and I see it growing steadily.”