US company stops supplying life-saving drug to Russia

An Eli Lilly subsidiary has halted deliveries of its insulin product mainly used by children

File photo: A vial of insulin at a hospital in St. Petersburg, ©  Sputnik/Alexey Danichev

The supply of Humalog-brand insulin made by Eli Lilly has practically run out in Russia, the newspaper Kommersant has reported. Most of the drug’s customers have been children with type-1 diabetes.

In March 2022, following the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Lilly had announced that it was stopping the export of “non-essential” drugs to Russia, such as the erectile dysfunction pill Cialis, but that cancer and diabetes drugs were unaffected. 

Since then, the US pharma giant delegated its Russia operations to a Swiss subsidiary, Swixx BioPharma. According to Kommersant, that company notified Russian authorities in February that it was halting new deliveries of Humalog, also known as insulin lispro. No reason was given for the move.

Russia’s drug monitoring body Roszdravnadzor said that as of Monday, there were more than a million doses of insulin lispro in circulation, “which corresponds to the annual need for this drug.” 

Though Lilly has withdrawn its product, there were three domestic substitutes in circulation already, meaning that “the patients’ need for this drug will be fully met,” Roszdravnadzor added.

Two generic substitutes for Humalog have been manufactured by the Russian company Geropharm. Another company, JSC Pharmsintez-Nord, began producing the same kind of insulin earlier this year as well. Lilly had accounted for almost all the insulin on the Russian market as late as 2019.

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“The departure of Eli Lilly should not affect Russian patients – the foreign manufacturer systematically reduced the volume of supplies of original drugs to our country, giving preference to other markets, which may be due to both economic considerations and the political position of the manufacturer,” a Geropharm spokesperson told Kommersant. 

This has been cold comfort to some parents of diabetic children, who said they might be willing to pay a steep markup to get the American drug on the “gray market,” according to Maria Blokhina, who runs the Telegram channel T1D News.

Blokhina is a mother of a child with type 1 diabetes, a congenital condition that requires external insulin. 

“Parents are generally afraid to switch their children to other insulins,” she told Kommersant. “Besides, Humalog is time-tested, one might say, the standard fast-acting insulin. Almost 30 years of use has played a role in its reputation, as did the Lilly company itself, a pioneer in the production of insulin in the world.”

According to Blokhina, some parents are unwilling to switch to the Geropharm product and will continue to buy Humalog from Germany, Türkiye and other countries.

“True, the price of such packaging from Germany will be 15,000 rubles instead of 1,700 rubles we used to pay at the pharmacy,” she said. “Parents are simply afraid to experiment.”


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