The “Situation of March 2020”: whether shortage of medicine is coming.
Since the beginning of March, buyers and members of patient communities have reported having a tough time in purchasing drugs in pharmacies, in particular, insulin, anticonvulsants and drugs needed for thyroid diseases. However, both pharma industry representatives and organizations supporting patients with severe chronic diseases state that leading pharmaceutical companies have announced their intention to continue working in Russia. They explain the shortage of medicines in pharmacies first of all as resulted from a panic buying and long -drawn supply time. Read more about the assumptions and prospects for the Russian pharma industry if faced with additional restrictions, in the Izvestia article.
The “Situation of March 2020”
Association of Russian pharmaceutical manufacturers told Izvestia that they do not expect any difficulties with the supply of medicines and medical devices. These products, as they clarified, do not fall under sanctions restrictions.
— Moreover, all factories located in the territory of Russia, whether with Russian or international capital (and we have many multinational companies that built factories in Russia), they all said that they are not leaving, they continue to work, - Viktor Dmitriev, General Director of the Association, told Izvestia. He explained the emerging reports on shortage of this or that medicines by the roaring demand taking place right now.
— In our [pharmacies] average check has increased almost five times, that is, the number of people is the same, but they purchase much more. No we deliver everything we have in stock from warehouses, - he said. - We expect that in the next three months, sales in pharmacies will fall sharply, because everyone is so stocked up with drugs that it is impossible to take them in due time.
Patients really appeal to us, when it comes to shortage of certain drugs in pharmacies, Izvestia has been confirmed in the Pharmprobeg intersectoral association.
They also agree that the situation is rather temporary and the shortage is primarily due to the fact that because of mass purchases, the suppliers simply do not have time to ship new deliveries from warehouses. Anna Belova, Head of the intersectoral association, told Izvestia about this.
— The situation is roused by the roaring demand for medicines, which exactly repeats the picture of March 2020 - the first month of the pandemic, when pharmaceutical companies informed us about an unprecedented demand for medicines and a several times increase in sales at once, - she noted.
All experts interviewed by the publication confirmed the attempt of patients to purchase drugs for future use at a time when longer than usual delivery times has resulted in that some drugs, including prescription drugs needed by people with chronic or severe diseases, are really difficult to find in pharmacies now.
Pharmprobeg also confirmed that the vast majority of pharmaceutical companies have already announced their intention to remain on the Russian market, but said that prices will rise in the near future.
— In one respect, we observe that almost all pharmaceutical companies continue their activities and express their intention to stay on the market. In other respect, we understand that due to interrupted supply chains and exchange rate fluctuations, there will be an upward adjustment in the cost of drugs, - Belova added.
At the same time, some of the drugs have a very limited shelf life, the pharma market representatives point out. In case of such drugs, the increase in delivery times due to changes in logistics, in particular the refusal to deliver drugs by air, can be especially important.
— There are drugs with two to three years shelf life, and some - only six months. At the same time, the expiration date is considered exactly from the moment the formulation is produced,” - Anton Zybin, General Director of Lancet company, which supplies innovative medicines and medical technologies to Russia, noted.
However, this is unlikely to become "a big problem in the future". As a result, logistics and the production cycle will adjust "to the new realities", the conversation participant believes.
“We are in absolute uncertainty”
The development of a negative scenario, when import of medicines to Russia may be suspended or hindered, is considered as unlikely by Pharmprobeg. They point out that at the moment there are no sanctions for drug provision. All the experts interviewed by the publication are of the same opinion.
It will be remembered that Russia has its own analogs of 85% of vital and essential drugs, - the association's experts noted.
However, should such a need arise, it will primarily affect patients with serious illnesses. Such people need innovative drugs, which most often have no analogs not only within the country, but throughout the world, Anton Zybin says.
— First of all, the case is about cancer patients, who are treated using innovative drugs, for example, in targeted chemotherapy, - he specifies. – Rheumatology patients may also suffer, as many unique breakthrough drugs have recently been released that affect the quality of life of such patients.
Also, according to Anton Zybin, “particularly sensitive is the issue" of medical devices used to service medical equipment, since the medical equipment in Russian health care centers is often imported, and consumables are suitable only from the manufacturer. The necessary software also belong to foreign manufacturers.
The first to fall into a potential risk group, if the situation develops according to an unfavorable scenario, will be people with orphan and genetic diseases. Such patients are in need for targeted and pathogenetic therapy, which, as a rule, has no analogs, the experts point out.
Russian Association of Rare (Orpan) Diseases (RARD) told Izvestia that they were alarmed by the situation, but had not yet heard of difficulties in purchasing the necessary drugs.
— Of course, we are now very worried, because the drugs are not only extremely rare, but also very expensive, one cannot buy them to use in future. Some are not registered in Russia at all, - Irina Myasnikova, Head of RARD noted. — Now we are in absolute uncertainty, but so far, we have not heard of any refusal.
“Everything will be constantly on hand”
Leading companies that produce the drugs needed by such patients, including Sanofi, Astra-Zeneca, UCB Pharma and Novartis, confirmed to RARD representatives that they intend to continue working on the Russian market.
Similar letters were received from all key producers by Sodruzhestvo Interregional Fund for Assistance to Patients with Epilepsy. This was reported to Izvestia by Marina Dorofeeva, Head of the Fund, a neurologist and epileptologist.
She said that many patients are now panicking, as they fear to lose access to their usual drugs, some of which have been selected for years. However, there are no such risks today, she believes.
— All well-known pharma companies forwarded a newsletter to leading specialists that everything will be supplied in the same volume, that is, everything will be constantly on hand, - the conversation participant pointed out.
At the same time, in case of vital drugs, the increase in prices is likely to be insignificant, since their cost is regulated by legislation, Marina Dorofeeva believes.
Manufacturers consider the difficult situation with drugs in pharmacies will normalize by the middle of next week, as follows from the correspondence of a physician with a representative of a large pharmaceutical company (as it has been known to Izvestia). The disruption of supplies were explained by many distributors having to cross over to prepaid contracts, resulted in the delivery time of drugs from warehouses was delayed.
Previously, consumers and patient communities have also reported a shortage of insulin, anticonvulsants, drugs needed for thyroid diseases, and representatives of the professional community - about a possible shortage of test kits for cancer patients. However, now there are no serious disruptions in their supplies to the market, Anna Belova noted.
— According to data of “Anti-Cancer Movement” Coordination Board, which monitor appeals of cancer patients under no timeline, they are hardly in evidence of a serious problem concerning test kits for cancer patients, — the conversation participant noted.
“It’s not that we’d have to turn ourselves in”
Right now, Russia is in favorable environment to develop the pharmaceutical sector, and a new round of sanctions, subject to supportive government policy, will be able to even provide more of an accelerant to the fire in industry, Anton Zybin believes.
This is also the case of necessary raw materials. In the event of collapse in established contacts with Western partners, India and China will still be able to supply the substances necessary for production of medicines, and drugs to Russia. - Therefore, it’s not that we’d have to turn ourselves in, there are countries that are ready to help us, - the expert notes.
However, there is no direct need to talk about the transition to full import substitution today, all the experts interviewed by the publication emphasize.
In any case, it will be possible to talk about a significant redistribution of the market in favor of Russian companies no earlier than in two or three years, Zybin notes. In some cases, even longer.
— But as to the so-called biological drugs, their production in Russia may take even more time. Not all sites can produce technologically new types of drugs, - he notes. - Therefore, we cannot lose contact with foreign manufacturing partners and we are to maintain this connection and supplies to save the lives of our patients.
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