Staunton, May 16 – Russian government media have worked overtime to blame the problems those in Russia suffering from cancer now face, but Bakhodur Kamolov, a Russian oncologist, says that while sanctions have exacerbated these difficulties, they are far from the most important causes.
Those have arisen over the last three decades as a result of the chaos in Russian medicine during perestroika and the 1990s, Vladimir Putin’s healthcare cutbacks known euphemistically as “optimization,” and the decline of domestic pharmaceutical producers and of the expert community (rosbalt.ru/piter/2022/05/16/1957867.html).
It is easy to point to the impact of sanctions which have made it more difficult for Russian researchers to travel and publish abroad, for Russian companies to import both medicines and components for the manufacture of medicine, and for Russian cancer victims to pay the rising costs of the most advanced medications, he says.
But these pale in significance in comparison to the basic problem: Over the last 30 years, Russian oncology as a science and as a practice have been at best stagnating while oncology in the West has been advancing by leaps and bounds, curing many now who would certainly have died prematurely only a few years ago.
(The author of these lines can attest to how remarkable that is. When he was diagnosed with leukemia a decade ago, he was told that only three years earlier, he would have been advised to prepare for death within two years. With a new chemo drug, he was told, he had a 90 percent chance of living two years, as opposed to a 90 percent mortality rate in the same period.)
Given that 300,000 Russians currently die each year from cancer, the situation is dire; but no one should blame it on sanctions alone. The policies of the Russian government are responsible and must be changed if lives are to be saved.