Radio Free Europe — Radio Liberty’s Claire Bigg reports that robust protests by advocacy groups have persuaded Russia to lift its ban on Western nutritional supplements badly needed by patients suffering from a range of chronic diseases including cystic fibrosis (CF). Earlier this month, Russia banned imports of what it calls “medical foods” as part of sweeping sanctions on Western foodstuffs.
The Moscow Times reported last week that the government has announced that the bans will be relaxed so that Russians will have access to milk and other products that are lactose-free, supplements that are biologically active, vitamin-mineral-based complexes, protein concentrates of animal and plant origin and their mixtures, food additives and fibers (including the complex variety), and flavor additives.
Because some supplements contain milk powder, they had initially fallen under restrictions imposed in retaliation to sanctions by United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Finland, and Norway pertaining to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea last spring, and more recently both overt and suspected covert activities in support of Russian-speaking secessionist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Ms. Bigg says the ban had created fear among Russian cystic-fibrosis sufferers, for most of whom dietary supplements such as the U.S.-made supplements Pulmocare and Nutridrink are literally lifesaving, preventing weight loss and helping fight off infections. She notes that Russia does domestically produce some dietary supplement products, but only with limited output and selection, with no equivalent substitutes for many imported types, and that two health Russian health advocacy groups had filed a petition to the country’s Health Ministry and to Russian President Vladimir Putin outlining risks for patients and calling for medical foods to be exempted from the list of banned imports.
The government responded last Wednesday, two weeks after the sanctions had been introduced, announcing in a decree (Russian language) that it would make exceptions for a few specific of Western-made products, including lactose-free milk and nutritional supplements.