Worried Russians stockpile drugs as stocks run out and prices rise
After undergoing heart surgery not too long ago, Yelena Dmitriyeva was put on a rotation of four different medications. All are imported. All are now rare in his southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
“There is no queue, but the only medicine I need, I looked in all the pharmacies. My son has been around many pharmacies. … He just disappeared, disappeared,” she told Current Time. The thyroid medication she needs? “In Rostov it is untraceable,” she said.
Nailya Musina, who lives about 1,700 kilometers north in the Volga town of Menzelinsk, has the same problem trying to locate a drug that helps prevent ovarian cancer. Luckily, her daughter, who lives in Turkey, managed to locate a comparable drug and had it shipped to Russia by post.
“I was very worried…. I was out of breath. I am lucky to have my daughter who lives abroad, but not everyone has this possibility”, she told RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir service. “I feel sorry for everyone with epilepsy. What will happen to them?”
Russia is suffering an unprecedented shock since the early 1990s, after the Soviet collapse and the first efforts to rebuild the country’s economy in a market system. This time the shock comes from the punitive sanctions the West imposed on Moscow in response to the invasion of Ukraine, which is now approaching its fifth week. Foreign companies are also suspending operations or withdrawing from Russia altogether.
by some estimatesRussia’s economy could contract by up to 15% in 2022 as foreign companies suspend operations, exporters halt trade and the ruble plummets.
Reports of some consumer goods shortages have already emerged; staples like sugar and buckwheat have been reported in short supply at some grocery stores.
Medicines are also starting to run out.
At the moment, it is unclear to what extent this is due to the suspension of imports and to what extent people are buying in panic and stocking up on medicines in anticipation of possible shortages.
But whatever the cause, it is a concern given that the Russian pharmaceutical industry is relatively small and many of the most advanced medicines and drugs prescribed in Russia come from foreign manufacturers or are made by foreign manufacturers. .
Among the multinational chemical giants that have reduced their exports or manufacturing are the German Bayer and the American companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
In Moscow, pharmacies have reported shortages fever medications – things like paracetamol or acetaminophen or ibuprofen – as well as painkillers for children, according to the RBC business newspaper.
And reports — and complaints — about shortages come not just from patients, but also from doctors. In a survey of 3,317 physicians conducted March 14-21 by VrachiRF’s professional community, a majority of respondents reported shortages of more than 80 pharmaceuticals.
the study results were published on March 21 by the economic newspaper Vedomosti.
Doctors have reported shortages in everything from anti-inflammatory and antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drugs to antidepressants, oral contraceptives, certain types of insulin and drugs used to treat certain types of diabetes.
Experts say it’s possible that after the shock of sanctions and corporate walkouts – which have been quicker and harsher than many Western and Russian analysts had expected – will dissipate, markets will Russian import and domestic manufacturing will adjust. For example, India has a massive generic drug manufacturing industry and has not adhered to Western imposed sanctions.
However, the Russian authorities are sensitive to any possible internal disturbance. Although there have been some protests against the war, analysts say dissatisfaction with inflation, rising food prices or shortages of basic foodstuffs or medicine have greater potential to drive to more generalized manifestations.
Seemingly seeking to assuage concerns and avoid unrest, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko claimed on state television March 19 that there were “no jumps, no glitches” in the pricing of essential medicines that save lives.
On March 22, the lower house of parliament passed a host of new regulations aimed at strengthening the market and manufacturing of prescription drugs and other medical equipment in Russia. The new rules include a measure that prohibits manufacturers of durable medical equipment and devices from suspending or ending operations in Russia without six months’ notice.
In Ufa, the capital of the central region of Bashkortostan, drug buyers have complained of a sharp rise in prices in recent weeks. And in one pharmacy, managers hung advertisements on the walls promising that there will be no shortage of imported domestic or foreign drugs.
“Here, for example, I use a [anti-microbial] ointment,” one woman, Olga Ivanova, told Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “And what do you end up with? It was 450 rubles ($4.34), and now I got it a week or 10 days later, and it’s 562 ($5.42).
“I was buying medicine that I needed, imported medicine,” said another woman, Olga Chizhik. “He literally went up 300 rubles, to 400 rubles.”
Aleksandr Kurmyshkin, a former representative of several US pharmaceutical companies, said problems with supplies of imported drugs were likely a temporary phenomenon.
“I know from experience of previous crises like this that foreign suppliers, as a rule, appreciate the Russian market. They understand that when it comes to our patients, the state is doing its job,” he said.
He said the government may have to intervene, for example, to restructure the debts of importers and suppliers.
“But while these negotiations continue, in the next three or four months there will definitely be some kind of deficit,” he said.
“Maybe in a month we will know something”
Shortages have also been reported for some drugs in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city and one of the country’s wealthiest urban centers.
Veronika Kushlyanskaya, who suffers from autoimmune Crohn’s disease, said the drugs she needs have already disappeared from pharmacies; the last time she was able to buy them was in early March.
“I also talk to other people who have the same problem. They look for all the drugs, panic, ask: “Where can I find them?” Who still has it? “, Did she say. “So I understand that this is a problem not only in Petersburg, but also in the regions.”
“I think it makes sense for all patients with my diagnosis and in general to stock up on more drugs for the next couple of months because they will disappear or become very expensive,” she said.
And the same is also true in Russia’s wealthiest city, Moscow, where drug shortages are particularly painful for non-governmental charities like House With A Beacon, a palliative care center for children with life-threatening illnesses. terminal.
Some drugs “have completely disappeared. We are going to buy them but there are no stocks,” said Lida Moniava, director of development for the organization. Pharmacies and wholesalers “constantly say, ‘I don’t know. Maybe in a month we will know something about all kinds of drugs.