August 23, 2023

A Shortage of Drugs


A Shortage of Drugs
Medicines. Marko Verch, Flickr

Russian hospitals recently received a communication from the Ministry of Health containing a list of 196 medicines that could vanish from the Russian market in the near future. The note advised medical practitioners to consider this information when prescribing medications and to explore alternative treatment options when possible.

The list encompasses a range of medications, including some discontinued due to obsolescence and others that are especially specific. Still others are life-saving.

Healthcare professionals have said that the lack of modern antibiotics crucial for patients in critical conditions, such as Sivextro and Invanz, will be particularly impactful. Additionally, many medicines used in the treatment of oncological disorders are also being phased out of the Russian market. Despite some having local equivalents, there are concerns that insufficient research validates the effectiveness of such substitutes.

Another important drug on this list is the French drug Solian, which is used in the treatment of schizophrenia and has no analogs among Russian-manufactured drugs.

According to the media outlet Kholod, several suppliers are exiting the Russian market due to the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, the devalued ruble exchange rate, and government price controls. Even companies operating within Russia, selling in rubles, find it challenging to sustain operations since they must compensate shareholders in foreign currencies. "It is easier for them to leave the market," said Yury Meshcheryakov, a specialist in clinical pharmacology.

At the same time, some doctors interviewed by journalists believe that the Ministry of Health sometimes colludes with the largest Russian pharmaceutical manufacturer, R-Pharm, in order to create unfavorable conditions for its competitors and squeeze them out of the market.

After its initial notice, the Ministry of Health announced that it would send "updated information" later. However, at the time of publication of the Kholod article, he had not done so. This may be due to the leakage of the first letter through specialized channels, which could frighten the department.

The drying-up of the Russian drug market is not new. Shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of popular drugs disappeared from pharmacies. Among them were antitumor agents, antihistamines, antibiotics, antipyretics, and blood pressure medications. Among the drugs that have virtually disappeared from conventional pharmacies is the popular drug Ozempic, used by people with diabetes. It can be found at illegal dealers at a price eight times higher than its usual value.

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