Russian Diabetes Patients Face Insulin Shortage, Government Agencies Quarrel in-Dispute over Imported Insulin

May 1, 1995

A shortage of insulin is threatening millions of Russian diabetics, a Western news agency has said.

According to the Associated Press, the Russian Health Ministry precipitated the crisis when it tried to force Moscow and other cities to purchase a domestically-produced insulin -even though it is not yet available and has even not been approved yet by the ministry.

People with diabetes in Russia have been relying on imported insulin since 1989 when the Soviet Union closed down domestic facilities because of outdated production methods and unsafe conditions. The current crisis reflects the consequences of the unraveling of the Soviet Union's once extensive social safety net, the AP said.

As many as 8 million Russians may be diabetic, and about 350,000 require daily doses of insulin.

The current shortage began in January, when the Health Ministry seized Moscow's annual supply of insulin, according to a spokesman for the Moscow Medical Directorate. After the city had ordered the medicine, the Health Ministry, hoping to encourage interest in a new Russian-made insulin, introduced a regulation requiring a special license to import insulin -Moscow's immediate application was rejected just as quickly.

The imported insulin was sitting at Moscow's international airport and the domestic insulin had yet to be approved as of early March, the AP said.

According to the report, the Health Ministry cannot afford to have the domestically-produced insulin fail on the Russian market. The Ministry had already agreed to purchase a fixed amount and stands to lose millions of dollars if it is not sold.

Private pharmacies still offer insulin, but a daily dose costs about $48 - more than most elderly Russians' monthly pensions.

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