Roche, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and more pledge support to Ukraine as industry condemns Russian invasion

The contingent of biotech and pharma companies condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and pledging to help keep the beleaguered nation’s healthcare system afloat—is growing.

Take Roche, for example. The Swiss pharma major on Wednesday said it would donate 150,000 packages of the antibiotic Rocephin to Ukraine. The drug is used to treat symptoms of many kinds of bacterial infections and holds a spot on the World Health Organization’s essential medicines list.

At the same time, the company said it “vehemently condemns the violent invasion of the country.”

Roche aims to get its Rocephin shipments to Ukraine “as soon as possible.” The company is working with external partners to figure out transport into the country “despite the current lack of humanitarian corridors into Ukraine,” Roche said in a release.

French drugmaker Sanofi also chimed in Thursday, sharing its sympathies with the Ukrainian people.

Sanofi says it’s donated 5 million euros ($5.5 million) to the Red Cross for Ukraine and neighboring countries, plus the U.N.’s refugee agency. The company is also hastening donations of essential medicines and vaccines to patients in Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in nearby countries.

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Meanwhile, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has started tracking the Ukrainian support efforts of drugmakers across the continent, including AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and more.

“Our first priority is to ensure that medicines reach the patients that need them in Ukraine, in the neighboring EU Member States, in Russia and in other countries where access to medicines may be negatively impacted,” EFPIA says on its website.

EFPIA’s member companies and associations are working to support Ukraine and help with the emerging refugee crisis in neighboring European countries. Companies are providing a mix of donations and financial support to non-governmental organizations.

Here are just a few of the actions those drugmakers have taken:

  • AstraZeneca has donated $1 million across Project HOPE and International Medical Corps, and it’s matching employee donations to UNICEF and British Red Cross appeals.
  • Bristol Myers, for its part, has so far donated $200,000 through the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation to Save the Children and International Rescue Committee.
  • Pfizer has supplied $1 million in humanitarian grants to American Red Cross, International Medical Corps and International Rescue Committee. The company is also matching employee donations to certain charities.
  • The Novo Nordisk Foundation has donated around 7.4 million euros (about $8.2 million) to the support effort, including about 700,000 euros to UNHCR—the U.N.’s refugee agency.

“With normal supply chains disrupted, we are in dialogue with several international humanitarian organisations to provide relief and have donated medicines and supplies to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health,” Novo Nordisk said on EFPIA’s website. “We are doing all we can to maintain the supply of essential medicines to patients living with chronic diseases in Ukraine,” Novo continued.

EFPIA has also recorded responses from Boehringer Ingelheim, Lundbeck and Merck. The federation says it’s updating its Ukraine response page regularly.

RELATED: Russia-Ukraine war: Siemens, J&J vow to continue serving all patients while Conformis freezes Russian sales

Across the industry, myriad companies have announced support efforts and individual decisions to halt operations within Russia, Reuters recently reported.

In biotech, leaders wrote in a recent letter that the industry’s “immediate and complete economic disengagement” from Russia is paramount. Chief executives at Nkarta, BioMarin, Rubius, atai Life Sciences, Blueprint Medicines, Ovid, Global Blood Therapeutics and dozens of others signed the letter.

The leaders pledged to cease investments in Russian companies and new investments within the country’s borders. They also promised to reject investments from Russian funds, halt collaboration or service agreements with Russian companies and halt trade with Russian companies, except for food and medicine.

In medtech, customized orthopedic implant maker Conformis on Wednesday said it would freeze all distribution to Russia and stop pursuing new business opportunities in the region.

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Siemens Healthineers, meanwhile, told Fierce Medtech that it would comply with all export control requirements and sanctions, while continuing to support healthcare providers and patients in Russia, citing the universal right to medical care. 

Johnson & Johnson, which told Fierce Medtech that the safety of affected employees and their families was its top priority, added that it’s “committed to ensuring that our essential medical products will reach the people who need them within the region.”