Sanctions see Russians panic buying antidepressants and sleeping pills – data

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Illustrative photo shows various medical pills in their original packaging in Brussels, Belgium August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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March 24 (Reuters) – Russians have been rushing to stock up on antidepressants, sleeping pills and contraceptives among other goods since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, data showed on Thursday, with people buying a month’s worth of drugs in just two weeks.

Although official opinion polls suggest that most Russians support President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine, social media, interviews and anecdotal data suggest that many Russians have been distressed by the severity of the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West in an attempt to force it to withdraw its forces.

Many foreign brands have announced that they are suspending their activities or leaving Russia, the value of the ruble against the dollar has fallen dramatically and the prices of many everyday products have skyrocketed since February 24, when at which Putin announced what he called “a special operation” in Ukraine.

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“I take L-thyroxine myself because I have problems with my thyroid gland, so I take it every day and worry about it,” said Moscow resident Valentina.

“That’s why I bought it a few months in advance, because I’m worried I’ll be able to find it in pharmacies later. People are asking for it everywhere.”

Sales data collected by analytics firm DSM Group for the Vedomosti daily showed on Thursday that Russians bought 270.5 million drugs from pharmacies from February 28 to March 13 for 98.6 billion rubles (1 .04 billion dollars).

It was almost comparable to sales data for the whole of January when Russians bought 288 million items from pharmacies for 100 billion rubles.

The latest data, which does not name specific brands, showed an increase in demand for overseas-made pharmaceuticals, with demand for Russian-made products also increasing.

In particular, it showed a surge in demand for antidepressants, sleeping pills, insulin, cancer and heart medications, hormones and contraceptives.

“It was fear,” Sergei Shulyak, chief executive of DSM Group, the company that collected the data, told Reuters.

“The first fear was that everything could get more expensive and the second fear was that the medicines they need won’t be available in a while. These fears have moved people. They were queuing up at pharmacies and buying everything. “

Shulyak, who said what he called “hysteria” had set in, said there was now a temporary shortage of some drugs, but said he expected the situation is stabilizing over time, with Russian manufacturers still able to produce generic drugs and many foreign producers continuing to supply Russia even though their products were now sold at a higher price.

He warned, however, that deteriorating ties with the West meant that some Russian drug producers were having trouble sourcing the ingredients they needed to make their products.

Some Russians said they were unimpressed by the panic.

“There might be (shortages), especially if the drugs are imported, but I think everything will come back because politics is politics, economics is economics,” said Moscow resident Vladimir. “They (the drugmakers) all need to sell, they all need to make a profit, so everything will come back.”

($1 = 95.0000 rubles)

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Reporting by Reuters journalists Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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