Sanofi ramps up insulin production at Russian plant

Russian officials have made it clear to international drugmakers that if they want a significant piece of the action there, they need to transfer technology to the country and have local production. To that end, Sanofi ($SNY) is gearing up for commercial production at an insulin plant in Russia which it bought in 2010 from a Polish company.

"Our motivation was to be acknowledged as a local manufacturer," Martin Siewert, vice president for industrial affairs, told The Moscow Times. "It should be recognized in the health care system that we produce locally." He said that having that local designation would help it get government tenders.

The plant will produce filled insulin pens and can produce up to 30 million units a year, according to The Moscow Times. The French drugmaker bought a 51% ownership from Poland's Bioton in 2010 and shares ownership with Russian businessman Sergei Dokuchaev.

Russia is seen as one of the prime emerging markets to be tapped by the industry. But President Vladimir Putin has been very blunt that they won't get access for nothing. He intends to build up Russia's capabilities to develop and manufacture its own drug supply and has indicated that the industry can expect someday to see special tariffs on imported drugs. A government agency late last year announced new rules for government drug buys, saying it would bar overseas suppliers of particular meds if at least two domestic alternatives are already available.

Drugmakers have responded and are creating partnerships and building plants. Japan's Takeda opened a plant there in September, and Novartis ($NVS), Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) and others have manufacturing facilities in the works. In fact, The Moscow Times says, Novo Nordisk ($NVO) started last year on a $100 million insulin cartridge plant in the Kaluga region.

- read the Moscow Times story