Novartis, Lilly, Merck and More Halt Business Operations in Russia

Russia-Ukraine Conflict

More and more pharmaceutical companies are joining in the effort to put economic pressure on Russia by suspending some or all operations within that country following the invasion of Ukraine. 

One day after Pfizer announced it was halting its business practices within Russia, AbbVie, Abbott, Novartis, Merck and Eli Lilly have followed suit. This morning, Merck announced plans to halt all investments made in Russia in protest of the invasion. Like Pfizer and other companies, the pharma giant would continue to supply life-saving medications in support of ongoing humanitarian efforts. According to Reuters, which was the first to report Merck’s decision, the company noted that it sent 135,000 courses of its antiviral COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, to Ukraine under a supply agreement previously struck with that government. There are increasing concerns of an outbreak of the virus in Ukraine due to the close proximity of people sheltering in bunkers to avoid Russian artillery.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly announced it was suspending sales of “non-essential medicines” within Russia, according to Reuters. The company, however, will continue to send drugs developed for cancer and diabetes to the country. Additionally, Lilly is suspending all investments within Russia and will not begin any new clinical programs in the country.

“We also have suspended all investments, promotional activities, and new clinical trials in Russia, as well as the exportation of non-essential medicines to that country. Our Russian operations are now only focused on ensuring people suffering from diseases like cancer and diabetes continue to get the Lilly medicines they need. Should we generate any profits from our sales in Russia, we will donate them to organizations dedicated to humanitarian relief,” Eli Lilly said in a statement on its website. 

Novartis halted investments and marketing activities within Russia. Also, the Swiss pharma giant ceased “all scientific events organized by the company or external parties in Russia,” Reuters said.

Johnson & Johnson has halted enrollment of clinical programs, while Illinois-based AbbVie has halted operations for its aesthetics business in Russia, which includes the blockbuster treatment Botox. 

Bayer and Abbott have also halted business operations. In a statement issued Tuesday, life sciences giant Bayer said it will halt all non-essential business in Russia and Belarus “while ensuring continued access to health and agriculture products.”

“As a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bayer stopped all spending in Russia and Belarus that is not related to supplying essential products in health and agriculture. This includes suspending all advertising and other promotional activities, halting capital investment projects indefinitely and not pursuing any new business opportunities,” the company said in a statement

Since the start of the invasion, life sciences leaders have widely condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Earlier this month, more than 400 leaders within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries signed an open letter that condemned the invasion and called for economic disengagement. The signees of the letter, which included Jeremy Levin, chairman and chief executive officer of Ovid Therapeutics; Meg Alexander, chief corporate affairs officer of Ovid Therapeutics; John Maraganore, founding CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; Paul Hastings, president and CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics and also the current chairman of BIO; among others, called for a halt of new investments into the Russian market, as well as the refusal of any financing from Russian investors.  

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