Pfizer pauses clinical trials in Russia, says it will continue to send drugs to patients

March 14, 2022, 3:17 PM UTC

Pfizer Inc. said it would no longer start new clinical trials in Russia and that it would donate all profits from its subsidiary in the country to Ukraine relief causes.

At the same time, the drugmaker said in a statement that it will continue to supply medicines to Russia, out of fear that vulnerable patients such as children and elderly people who rely on its therapies could be harmed by any halt. 

The company “concluded that a voluntary pause in the flow of our medicines to Russia would be in direct violation of our foundational principle of putting patients first,” according to the statement. Pfizer said it doesn’t own or operate any manufacturing sites in Russia and plans to cease planned investments with local suppliers.

There is increasing economic pressure on Russia, including sanctions from the U.S., European Union and other countries, over the war in Ukraine. Many multinational corporations have opted to suspend their operations in Russia as well, though Moscow has threated asset seizures and other potential reprisals. 

However, the medical industry has largely been exempt from sanctions, and health-care companies are trying to meet the needs of patients while being sensitive to the international outcry over the war. The U.S. Treasury has authorized transactions related to the exportation of medicine, medical devices and other tools and services aiding with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. Notably, this includes research or clinical studies relating to the disease. 

Pfizer said it would work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators to move current clinical trials to alternative locations outside of Russia. Patients already enrolled in studies will continue to receive medications, the company said. 

Shares of Pfizer were up 3.6% at 10:03 a.m. in New York on Monday. 

Studies suspended

With the announcement, Pfizer joins peers that have paused patient recruitment in Russia. 

Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG, which has 71 trial sites in Russia, said it had paused new patient enrollment and site activation in the country. The company has set up a task force to assess the “impact of the situation on our clinical trials,” according to spokesperson Karsten Kleine.

“Our priority remains to ensure that all patients currently enrolled in clinical trials in Russia continue to get access to treatments,” Kleine said in an email, noting that Roche doesn’t have production sites in the country. 

U.S. drug and device giant Johnson & Johnson has paused trial enrollment in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine “based on the challenging local conditions,” J&J said in an emailed statement. 

J&J said it remains “committed to providing essential health products to those in need in Ukraine, Russia, and the region, in compliance with current sanctions and while adapting to the rapidly changing situation on the ground.” 

—With assistance from Robert Langreth.

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