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Drug sector must modernise to cut dependence on foreign firms, says Russian PM

By Gareth MacDonald+

14-Dec-2010
Last updated the 03-Jan-2011 at 16:49 GMT

Russia is “becoming dependant” on foreign drugmakers according to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has called for home-grown manufacturers to make more of the country’s medicines.

Putin made the comments at the ChemRar conference in Moscow last week , warning that continued reliance on multinational drugmakers, which currently hold 80 per cent of the Russian market, could result in drug shortages and price hikes.

We cannot tolerate this state of affairs and we must fundamentally modernize our pharmaceutical and medical industries.”

To address this Putin called on Russian firms to make 50 per cent of all drugs, and 90 per cent of “vital medicines,” sold in the country by 2020 and set out an “ambitious” RUB120bn ($3.9bn) investment programme designed to revamp the industry.

At the core of the plan is support for the development of novel engineering technologies at 160 plus pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. In return, producers are expected to foot the bill for any other modernisation and development work that is required.

Putin warned that pharmaceutical manufacturers which do not make such investments will face “restrictions in the Russian market," particularly those that fail to increase production and technology transfer activity, according to a Reuters report.

Research investment

The Russian Government also plans to set up 17 centres for clinical trials and to invest in the development of specialist training programmes to ensure a sufficient number of qualified employees to staff them.

But, while the major focus is on developing Russia’s drug industry from within, the plan also recognises the importance of international partnership, citing the cross-border approach taken by the ChemRar business incubator as an important model.

Putin said that: “We must support such activities and create the best possible conditions for attracting private investment for new technology to the [pharmaceutical] industry.”

GMP by 2014, boosting exports

Russian industry minister Viktor Khristenko also stressed the need to improve the quality of drug production, highlighting the adoption of good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards on January 1, 2014 as a key step in this process.

In essence we will need to ensure that manufacturing technology and infrastructure in Russia measure up to the standards used in the most advanced production facilities in Europe and the US.”

And beyond the obvious benefits for the safety of Russian patients, Khristenko said that improving quality will be good for boosting the amount of drugs the country exports to regulated international markets.

International drugmakers

Industry response to the 2020 programme has been muted so far, but it will surely not have escaped the attention of drugmakers like Nycomed, Novo Nordisk and AstarZeneca which have all announced plans to invest in the country.

Nor will the news have been missed by firms seeking to target emerging pharmaceutical markets, particularly given the recent Frost & Sullivan prediction that drug sales in Russia will be worth $37.1bn by 2016, up from$15.3bn last year.

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