Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Restrictions on Imports Seen Hurting Those Kremlin Cares Least About -- Russia’s Ill

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 3 – Because of the failure of the Putin regime to develop the Russian Federation’s medical industry, thus forcing the country to purchase abroad up to 80 percent of its medicines, the Kremlin’s planned imposition of restrictions on their import will hurting the ill, a group to whose plight Moscow has long shown itself to be insensitive.


            As a result, Magarita Alekhina says in yesterday’s “Novyye izvestiya,” “limitations on the import of medications” is hurting Russians who suffer various illnesses, “a bitter pill” all around and something that is likely to prove increasingly worrisome and in some cases even fatal (


            Last week, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the government may soon limit the import of medicines from countries outside of the Moscow-led Customs Union, with other officials indicating that the relevant documents are already being prepared for this step to take place in October.


            This idea has already been pushed by members of the Duma who see it as part of the general program of “import substitution.” And it enjoys the support of Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, who insists that any such ban on imports will not lead to a lowering in the quality of medicines or a decline in public health.


Over time, import substitution may work, but experts say there are real problems especially in the immediate future.  Yury Belousov, the chief pharmacologist at Roszdravnadzor, says that “there is a large group of illnesses” where there are no counterparts to the medicines being imported.


Included in this list, he told Alekhina are cancer drugs, anti-viral medications and drugs for treating nervous system disorders. As a result, if the current medications now being imported from abroad cease to be available, people will suffer because there are no good alternatives being produced or likely to be produced anytime soon.


Vladimir Shipkov, executive director of the Association of International Pharmaceutical Producers, agrees. “Russian generics will never be able to be a complete substitute for the original medications,” and counting on them, as the Russian government appears to be preparing to do, is “a path to nowhere.”


 Moreover, he continues, not just those with especially serious or exotic illnesses are going to suffer. Ordinary Russians will as well – and quite frequently at that. The reason for that is that almost all of them have to visit the dentist and almost all the medications dentists use come from abroad, rather than being domestically produced.


But those with some of the most serious illnesses will certainly suffer the most from the Russian government’s planned actions. HIV/AIDS experts say that Russia could produce many of the retroviral drugs now used against that disease but that the transition would require at least a year or more and even then might not be complete.


And one expert says that he is worried that in the drive for import substitution, quality control may suffer, the medications may be less effective, and those with this disease will suffer as a result.


As far as treating cancer is concerned, Mikhail Laskov, the director of palliative care at the European Medical Center, says, complete substitution of drugs produced abroad is “absolutely unreal.”  Not only are the generics typically less effective, but in many cases, there is no substitute at all.


“For certain categories of the ill,” Alekhina concludes, the imposition by Moscow of an embargo on foreign medicines will be lethal.  If they can no longer obtain the medications doctors need to treat what is wrong with them – and in some cases, there is only one supplier and it is abroad – then Russians now suffering from some diseases will die from them.




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