Russia Turns to India Amid Medicine Shortage Crisis

Russia is facing an acute shortage of essential medicines, a crisis worsened by international sanctions imposed in response to its geopolitical actions. While the sanctions do not directly target medical supplies, they have significantly disrupted the logistics and procurement processes, affecting millions of Russians who rely on imported drugs for their health and well-being.

As a result, Russian pharmaceutical companies are finding it increasingly difficult to import raw materials and finished products. Over the past two years, pharmacies have seen dozens of critical medications disappear, including treatments for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, depression, cancer, allergies, infections, and fevers.

Patients with chronic conditions are among the hardest hit. Maria Ivanova, a diabetic from St. Petersburg, described her struggle to obtain insulin to one of Russian news outlets. “I used to get my insulin supply easily, but now it’s a nightmare. I’ve had to ration my doses because the pharmacy shelves are empty,” she said.

Healthcare professionals are also voicing their concerns. Dr. Alexei Smirnov, a cardiologist in Moscow, highlighted the dire situation. “We are running out of essential drugs for heart patients. The supply chain disruptions mean that we can’t provide adequate care to those in need. It’s heartbreaking to see patients suffer because we lack the necessary medications,” he explained.

The crisis is further compounded by the exit of some foreign medical clinics. For example, Israeli Hadassah, which opened its Moscow branch in 2018 with a $15 million investment, is reportedly on the brink of closure.

Hadassah Medical Moscow was designed to offer advanced medical treatments through experienced Israeli doctors, adhering to international protocols and utilizing top-tier international medicines, including those not certified in Russia. The clinic treats about 20,000 people annually and employs over 100 doctors, many of whom initially came from Israel.

However, recent developments indicate a shift away from this model, with Israeli doctors now visiting only sporadically and for very short periods. Hadassah Medical Moscow seems to no longer follow its original plan of providing cutting-edge medical care through continuous collaboration with Israeli medical professionals.

Amid deteriorating relations between Russia and Israel, Israeli media have called on Hadassah to cease operations in Moscow. Additionally, it was revealed that despite an official ban by the Israeli Ministry of Health on treating Hamas militants, a member of the group was treated at Hadassah Medical Moscow.

Many analysts suggest that Hadassah is scaling back its operations in Russia, shifting away from its initial business model at Hadassah Medical Moscow, and ultimately eliminating its presence in the country.

The Russian government is attempting to mitigate the crisis. The Ministry of Health is stepping up efforts to source medicines from alternative suppliers and increase domestic pharmaceutical production to reduce reliance on imports.

In response to the shortages, Russia is turning to India, the world’s largest exporter of generic medicines. In 2023 India exported $25.4 billion worth of pharmaceutical products and has around 10,000 pharma units producing APIs, formulations, vaccines, biologicals, and advanced therapeutics.

Moscow has proposed financial support for Indian companies willing to build facilities in Russia and is seeking increased pharmaceutical exports from India. A huge Indian delegation attended the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in the beginning of June to explore collaborations and discuss drug security. According to Indian media, the Russian Direct Investment Fund is ready to fund Indian companies that wish to collaborate with local firms and focus on R&D.

This issue is set to be discussed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Moscow, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Some analysts believe that in the long term, Russia might benefit from reducing its reliance on Big Pharma, arguing it could foster a more self-sufficient pharmaceutical industry. However, the immediate challenge remains ensuring that the Russian population has access to essential medicines.