Drug and medical device makers fear sanctions will make it harder to supply Russia

By Francesco Guarascio, Michael Erman and Stine Jacobsen

March 3 (Reuters) – Western drugmakers and medical device companies warn that their plans to continue selling products to Russia may be complicated by economic sanctions on the country and its major banks as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine. by Moscow.

Sanctions imposed by the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Canada against Russia do not apply to medicines and medical equipment, and the industry has a responsibility under international humanitarian law to continue supplying these products, groups said. industry tradesmen, standards experts and business representatives.

International aid groups are pushing to keep critical drugs flowing into Ukraine, where Russian troops are trying to take control of major cities, causing more than 870,000 Ukrainians to flee their country and millions to seek refuge from air strikes. Pharmacies are already reporting shortages of medical supplies.

Many Western companies have declared that they will stop selling anything from cars to movies in Russia. Transactions related to drugs and medical devices, as well as food, have been authorized despite US and EU sanctions.

But sanctions that have isolated Russian banks from the international financial system, as well as decisions by major shipping companies to suspend service to the country, could also make it harder to deliver medical supplies.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations called in a statement for medicines and vaccines to safely reach people who need them in Ukraine, neighboring EU countries and Russia.

Under international humanitarian law, everyone has the right to access essential medical services and supplies, including medicines and vaccines, said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University.

“In times of conflict, this right of uninterrupted access to essential medical supplies has been frequently violated,” said Gostin. “Governments that impose sanctions are also supposed to make an exception for medical supplies. However, sanctions often disrupt medical services and supply chains.”

In a general permit issued last week, the United States authorized transactions related to the export or re-export of drugs and medical devices with Russia. It has also issued exemptions for payments related to energy and international organizations, among others.

The US Treasury Department declined to comment.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels, Michael Erman in New Jersey, and Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen; additional reporting by Jennifer Rigby in London, Jason Lange and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, and Dan Burns in New York; editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot, translated by José Muñoz in the Gdańsk newsroom)

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