The European Medicines Agency’s executive director Guido Rasi has been forced to step down after his appointment, made three years, was annulled by a EU panel.

The European Union Civil Service Tribunal has ruled on an appeal by an individual against the selection procedure in 2011 for the appointment of executive director of the EMA. Emil Hristov, formerly of the Bulgarian drug agency, brought the case in January 2012 following a decision by the European Commission not to include him on the shortlist of candidates.

The court has, “on purely formal grounds”, annulled the Commission’s decision of adopting a shortlist and as a consequence, the choice of Dr Rasi (pictured) has also been annulled.

Sir Kent Woods, chair of the EMA management board, noted “with regret” the tribunal’s judgement, saying “it is important to remember that the ruling is about a procedural formality. It is not a reflection on Guido Rasi’s competence or ability to run the agency, something which he has done successfully since November 2011.”

The European Commission and EMA are both taking legal advice. “Pending further decisions”, Andreas Pott, the agency’s deputy executive director, will take over.