Russia ponders food supplement marketing restrictions

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Russia may hand the OTC-supplements market a medical fraternity ban
Russia may hand the OTC-supplements market a medical fraternity ban

Related tags Medicine Russia

Russian legislators have proposed restricting food supplement marketing to the medical profession.

A bill introduced into the Russian State Duma seeks to prevent food supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) products making medicinal claims from being advertised in pharmaceutical and medical publications.

If the bill is adopted such marketing would also be prohibited at medical trade shows and conferences.

“In the rationale it was suggested that the legislation should encourage people to take only medicines prescribed by doctors, as opposed to self-medicating after being influenced by drug advertisements,” ​said PMR senior pharmaceutical market analyst Agnieszka Skonieczna.

“According to some experts, Russians are inclined to buy products which are advertised, without heeding the side effects.”

The Ukraine government is considering similar actions and has already approved a list of several hundred non-prescription drugs which cannot be advertised.

Strong growth

According to PMR, the OTC-supplements market in Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan was worth €7.4bn in 2011 and is expected to hit €10bn in 2014 –a 10%+ annual average growth rate across the three countries.

Russia accounts for 85% of those sales but is growing the most slowly at 9.5% between 2012 and 2014.

The Ukraine, on the other hand, is expected to grow at 17.5% year-on-year between 2012 and 2014; Kazakhstan 14.2%.

But the PMR forecasts do not factor in any marketing bans that may occur.


One sector that may be affected by a marketing ban in Russia is probiotics.

Russia’s probiotic market that has shown annual growth rates of around 50% in recent years. Last year, Russian State Medical University’s Dr Leyla Namazova-Baranova told NutraIngredients that probiotics were heavily researched and supported for varying conditions in Russia and other former Soviet-controlled states like the Ukraine and Hungary.

“Probiotics have for a long time been respected by the medical profession in areas like immunity and children’s infections and considered normal treatment for different diseases,”​ said Dr Namazova-Baranova, a member of the International Pediatrics Association, and the Union of Pediatricians of Russia.

“The trend has grown in the past ten years. Probiotics are now widely used in different fields of medicine: As rehabilitation after antibiotic intake, immuno-modulation, restoration of digestion and nutrient absorption. We also know about such effects as atherosclerosis’ prevention, metabolic optimisation, anti-allergy.”

Dr Namazova-Baranova spoke directly of the marketing issue when she observed: “Brand awareness very much depends on advertising pressure. Medical doctors pay attention to product effectiveness and safety, quality of clinical studies and their own experience. That is why ‘popular OTC brand’ sometimes are not equal to the brand, which is mostly recommended by doctors.”

Euromonitor figures put the Russian market at €340m in 2011, with about €140m of that in probiotic food-pharma supplements, and €200 in probiotic yoghurts.

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