Thursday, November 1, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Why Russia’s Diabetics Aren’t Getting the Insulin They Need

Paul Goble

Vienna, November 1 – Despite dramatic increases in the incidence of diabetes in the Russian Federation, that country still lacks a domestic producer and has not been willing or able to purchase sufficient supplies abroad to meet domestic requirements, according to two Moscow investigators who have examined this situation.
As a result, Boris Mironov and Vladimir Chertovich say in an article posted online this week, many Russian diabetics are not getting the medicines they need, a shortcoming in Russian pubic health that often produces other illnesses and premature deaths (
To a large extent, of course, the story of Russia’s insulin shortage is part of broader problems there: the reduction of state subsidies for medications, the collapse of the health delivery system in certain regions, and even the inability of many Russians to get to drug outlets because of Russia’s diminished system of public transport.
But these problems have been compounded by new reports suggesting that a decision the Russian health ministry made last February when it directed public hospitals and clinics to screen guestworkers for disease and then to those needing it at low cost (
That decree, recent reports suggest, has led to a sharp rise in the number of immigrants who come to Russia not to work but rather to obtain inexpensive medical treatment and also to anger among many Russians who conclude that their government appears to be discriminating in favor of immigrants and against Russian citizens.
What makes the insulin situation especially infuriating, Mironov and Chertovich say, is that the Russian government has allocated millions of rubles to remedy it, steps health ministry officials have pointed to with pride, but so far, these funds have not helped any diabetics but rather enriched corrupt officials and businessmen.
The two journalists describe how the health ministry has repeatedly given large sums of money to Russian and foreign companies to manufacture insulin even after these companies have failed to deliver on their promises. Only recently, when some of these funds ended up in the U.S., did prosecutors charge anyone with corruption or fraud.
Such charges represent a useful first step, Mironov and Chertovich admit, but they argue that what has really occurred in this case is “not theft and not corruption” alone. Rather, they write, it is something much worse: “the intentional murder of the nation” by depriving its citizens of needed medicines.
And they conclude in anger that when it comes to the lack of insulin for diabetics and the deaths that have and will result, “the murderers are the power structures of Russia” who allowed this to happen, even though they have sought to present themselves as the guardian of the country.

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