Pharma companies tend to use the “essential medicines” term in a much broader sense than the WHO definition
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Of 112 foreign pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in Russia, only 14 left the market, while 35 scaled back or withheld investments and 63 kept business as usual, KSE Institute reports. Most of them continue justifying their work in Russia with the excuse of the “essentiality” of their products for human lives. But how valid is this claim about essentiality?

Despite localization efforts since 2014, Russia remains highly dependent on foreign medicines. Russian companies buy a significant portion of substances in China and India, increasing the supply since the start of the war against Ukraine. So western companies’ products are not as irreplaceable as some might think.

Because of the war, large international companies reviewed their plans for localization in Russia and canceled future investments but continued to supply medicines. And many of them did not limit the supply to only essential ones, continuing to support the war.

“Essential medicines”, as defined by the World Health Organization, are the medicines that “satisfy the priority health care needs of the population”. But pharma companies remaining in Russia tend to use the term in a broader sense. For example, according to Pharmagate public organization, among all active substances or combinations that KRKA imported to Russia, only eight out of 105 (7.62%) are classified as “essential medicines” and are not produced in Russia. For Berlin-Chemie, this share is 10.71%. At the same time, each of the active substances or combinations in the preparations of KRKA and Berlin-Chemie can be replaced by other drugs from the list of the most necessary, which are produced in the Russian Federation, Pharmagate says.

To learn more about the questionable essentiality claims and other justifications multinationals use to remain in Russia, take a look at the new B4Ukraine research of corporate communications about continuing business in Russia.

Let us never forget that not every claim of essentiality is valid. More often than not it is used as a smoke screen so that companies can protect their market share and continue to make money even if it means they finance the unprovoked and unjust war at the same time.

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