Maria Sherstneva's picture

Healthcare Communications in Russia

Every PR specialist who starts working in[[wysiwyg_imageupload:169:]]
healthcare communications knows that it is on the one hand a great responsibility to promote something that saves people’s lives and really makes a difference in the world but on the other hand is a great challenge. Many medical topics are difficult to pitch and to have discussed in the media.  In addition, the area is highly regulated not only by governmental institutions but also by the clients themselves.  Under the auspices of Ketchum’s Global Scholar program, I recently had the opportunity to travel from Moscow to Ketchum’s New York office with a view to exchange our healthcare expertise, knowledge and insights.

Having a basic idea of the U.S. healthcare system already gave me an understanding of the dramatic differences between our countries. But I could not believe it influenced the approach to communications so much. Learning about the extent of FDA oversight in the U.S.I saw that there were far more distinct boundaries to work within.

Currently there are far fewer restrictions for healthcare PR in Russia. For example there is no equivalent to the FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion.  In discussing this phenomenon with my NY colleagues we came to a conclusion that working in a system with a more self-regulating framework than the U.S. model actually places more of the responsibility for accurately representing clients’ products on the PR agency and its staff. 

As post-Soviet Russia’s pharmaceutical and healthcare industry evolves and as the Pharma 2020 program is enacted, which will bring substantial growth to Russian domestic production of medications including biosimilars, the regulatory process will, by necessity, increasingly come to resemble that of other major producers and exporters.  The challenge in healthcare communications today is to remain abreast of these changes.  As Russia is further ahead than the United States in the developing and marketing of biosimilars, our New York colleagues were able to learn about how these products are being marketed in Russia.  Our mission in this process is to maintain the global standards of communications.  For us, this will be possible, to some extent through global scholarship programs such as Ketchum’s, which allow for discussing this evolution and sharing our experience to better serve our clients.