Sunday, May 27, 2018

Blaming Medicine Shortages on Sanctions, Putin Regime Seeks to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 27 – The decision of the Duma not to ban the import of American medicines as part of a new counter-sanctions regime and Russian commentaries about it has allowed Vladimir Putin to kill two birds with one stone, giving him yet another set of victories he doesn’t deserve.

            On the one hand, by suggesting that any shortages in medications in the Russian Federation are linked to sanctions – even though the sanctions that have are Putin’s own counter-sanctions -- he has distracted Russian attention from the fact that his government has failed to produce the drugs they need to survive and prompted them to blame the West.

            And on the other, the Kremlin leader has handed Western opponents of sanctions yet another argument against their continuation.  No one wants to see people suffer and die as a result of policies, a propaganda theme that some useful idiots and others in Western countries have picked up with alacrity and some success. 

            The discussions about sanctions and medicines may leave the impression that “before they were adopted, everything [in Russia] was more or less normal,” doctors say. “In fact, that was not the case.” There were many medicines patients need that are only available as imports and the health ministry doesn’t always buy them (

            One survey of doctors found “more than 40 types of medicine” which have “disappeared from hospitals and apothecaries” in recent months. Some of these are imports; others are of domestic manufacture. But Putin’s health “optimization” program means there is less money  for either, and there are now serious shortages.

            Russian doctors are forced to substitute other, less effective medication. As a result, Russian patients suffer more side effects and even in some cases die.  That is especially true in cases where there are no good Russian substitutes such as in chemotherapy treatment for cancer or anti-retroviral therapy for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. 

            In one notorious case, a woman who had been taking warfarin for 12 years was forced to replace that blood thinner with a veterinary medicine. That too came from abroad, but Moscow was still prepared to buy it, possibly because it was less expensive. 

            And Russian experts say that the problem with the supply of medicines in Russia will get worse regardless of what happens with sanctions. If they stay in place, Moscow will likely buy ever fewer medications and blame the West. If they are lifted, Moscow has created a system which takes so long to approve new drugs that many will suffer and die in the meantime.

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