The impact of the ukraine war on patients and medical innovation


PharmaLex, Mannheim, Germany


The war in Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis, with countless deaths and millions of people forced to flee their homes. The war has also had a huge impact on access to medicines. There have been reports that a children’s hospital was rapidly running out of essential drugs to treat children with cancer. The WHO also warned that medical oxygen supplies across the country are dangerously low. Patients with chronic conditions will struggle to gain access to the drugs they need and screening programs have also been forced to close. Despite assurances that Russian sanctions won’t include essential medicines, they will likely also make it hard for patients there to access the drugs they require. Then there are the supply chain issues to consider, particularly in neighbouring countries. How will war affect the ability to safely transport medicines? How will it impact the ability to adequately treat the millions of refugees from the war? All wars bring suffering and inevitably the vulnerable suffer most. As the first major war on European soil in decades, the situation in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the importance of finding collaborative and creative solutions to help patients in need. The article discusses the many challenges of war, looking back on previous wars and their impact on patients, and reports on the effects the Ukraine war is having on patients in the country and beyond. It also looks at how the industry might collaborate to try to mitigate the healthcare disaster in the area.

War inevitably punishes civilians on both sides, and in particular the most vulnerable. As with wars past and present, the Russia-Ukraine war has created serious social and health disruptions to the broader region. The supply of essential medicines, product manufacturing, care for patients and clinical trials have all been severely impacted. I believe our industry - and our company - can make a difference, but first we need to understand the challenges.


Attacks on hospitals and other health facilities have been widely publicized. Aside from the immediate horror, these attacks have forced their closure in some areas, making it hard for patients to access emergency treatments and essential medicines for chronic conditions, such as insulin for diabetes. Patients with critical conditions, such as cancer, face significant challenges accessing the treatments they need, while vital medical machinery such as EKG machines, defibrillators, ultrasound machines, cardiac monitors and ventilators are in short supply.


As Dr. Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine, has noted: “(Attacks on healthcare) deprive already vulnerable people of care ...