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US pharma giant withdraws key Hepatitis drug from Russia

Medicine had not been targeted by Western sanctions

American multinational pharmaceutical company MSD has announced that it would halt exports of Zepatier – a drug used to treat hepatitis C – business daily Kommersant reported on Tuesday.

Manufacturers are obliged to notify suppliers that they are halting deliveries a year before the actual suspension of imports, the Russian health regulator Roszdravnadzor said, highlighting that deliveries of Zepatier by MSD would continue as scheduled until the end of 2024. 

Similar alerts about the suspension of supplies of Zepatier and some other drugs have been sent by the Russian Health Ministry to hospitals, local media has reported, adding that the letter was later retracted. 


Zepatier is used for treating adults for hepatitis C of the first, third, and fourth genotypes. Although both the World Health Organization and the Russian Ministry of Health currently prioritize pangenotypic medicines, which are suitable for curing any type of virus, Zepatier is in high demand. 

Last year, the share of the medicine in treatment patterns financed by the government amounted to 19%, or $11 million in monetary terms, according to analysts at Zdravresurs, as cited by Kommersant. Since the beginning of the current year, it has slightly declined to 18%, or $7.6 million. 

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Zepatier has no alternatives in Russia, but several pharmaceutical firms are currently working on generics, according to the country’s ministry of trade. 


According to Zdravresurs, the halt of Zepatier supplies won’t have a major impact if Russian officials expand the use of pangenotypic drugs, including Maviret and Epclusa, which are produced by the US pharmaceutical companies AbbVie and Gilead. 

Although the supply of drugs and medicines haven’t been affected by the sanctions imposed on Russia, global pharmaceutical giants started reducing their operations in the country. 

In March 2022, several companies, including Pfizer, Bayer, Gilead, Novartis, MSD, Sanofi and AbbVie, suspended investments or clinical trials in Russia. 

MSD has stopped supplying Russia with vaccines against chicken pox, measles, rubella and mumps, as well as Raltegravir, a medicine to decrease the chances that HIV-infected people will develop AIDS. The company has explained that it was planning to focus on the supplies of vital vaccines that have no alternatives in Russia.


For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

August 22, 2023 at 08:07PM


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