Russian official fired for supporting pharma

Big Pharma has been blazing a trail into emerging markets lickety-split, and Russia looks to be on several drugmakers' priority lists for the next few years. But a development today illustrates the particular perils of doing business in that country--and indeed many developing countries.

Here's the deal: A top health official in Russia was sacked on Saturday because he seems to side with pharma companies rather than with the government on a proposal to regulate drug-sales efforts. Drugmakers have complained that the proposal doesn't clearly spell out rules for registering and licensing drugs, and that the drug-registration fee is too high, the Moscow Times reports. Nikolai Yurgel, head of the Health and Social Development Inspection Service, was quoted thus: "The fears expressed by the pharmaceutical industry representatives regarding the new law are not exaggerated. Lawmakers must listen to their concerns."

But Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is determined to push the law through quickly. The legislation would set prices on about 5,500 drugs, or one-third of the pharma market in the country, in addition to setting registration fees and establishing certain regulatory parameters. Putin says he won't accept dissent on this bill. "I want you to pay attention... to the fact that the Health and Social Development Ministry has decided on its position, which is supported by the government, and any deviations from this position will be suppressed, including by making staff changes," he said (as quoted by the Times). We'll have to wait and see how that fight turns out.

- read the Times story