OXFORD - While big pharma mergers are immediately scrutinized for their effects on competition, less attention is paid to the impact when one or both of the parties leave their home countries. Such an effect will be multiplied by two with the pending merger of Glaxo Wellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc, which mirrors the structural and political pressures to reduce pharma's ties to the U.K.

Given the worldwide consolidation in pharma, Glaxo and SmithKline's merger announcement last week was no great surprise. But the disclosure that the newly created Glaxo SmithKline will establish its operational headquarters somewhere in the U.S. was a much more eyebrow-raising revelation. The specter of a pharmaceutical brain drain across the Atlantic has been a recurring worry for both European politicians and biotech executives alike.