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Drugmakers, device companies say sanctions may hinder medical supplies to Russia

CNA – Western drugmakers and medical device companies warn their plans to keep selling products to Russia may be complicated by economic sanctions targetting the country and its major banks in punishment over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sanctions levied by the United States (US), Britain, Europe and Canada against Russia do not apply to medicine and medical equipment, and the industry has a responsibility under international humanitarian law to continue supplying these products, industry trade groups, policy experts and company officials said.

International aid groups are pushing to keep critical medicines flowing into Ukraine, where Russian troops are seeking to wrest control of major cities, prompting more than 870,000 Ukrainians to flee their country and millions to seek shelter from air strikes.

Already, pharmacies are reporting shortages of medical supplies. Many Western companies said they will stop selling everything from cars to movies in Russia. Transactions related to medicine and medical devices, as well as food, have been authorised despite US and European Union (EU) sanctions.

But sanctions that have cut off Russian banks from the international financial system, as well as decisions by major shipping companies to suspend service to the country, could hinder the delivery of medical supplies as well. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations in a statement called for safe passage of medicines and vaccines to people in need in Ukraine, neighbouring EU member states and Russia.

The US drug industry group PhRMA said it supports the continued exemption from all sanctions of medicines and the materials needed to manufacture them.

A Maersk container ship unloading shipping containers on a pier at Port Newark, New Jersey. PHOTO: CNA

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