Despite sanctions, Swiss pharmaceutical exports to Russia surge

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Switzerland has matched the 10 rounds of sanctions that the European Union has imposed, each getting tighter.

Photo by Arnd Wiegmann

The Neue Zurcher Zeitung am Sonntag newspaper reported that, after examining data from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security, pharmaceutical exports are at a record high, despite the fact that trade between Switzerland and Russia has ceased in many important sectors, most notably machines and watches.

Medications are immune from sanctions because they are regarded as humanitarian items.

2.9 billion Swiss francs (€2.94 billion) in exports from Switzerland to Russia were made between March 2022 and February 2023.

Exports have only surpassed 2.9 billion Swiss francs three times in recent years, according to the NZZ am Sonntag, down from the 3.5 billion francs in the previous 12 months.

“The impact “seems soberingly minor” given the extensive list of commodities that can no longer be transported to the belligerent nation, the weekly reported.


Since the invasion, pharmaceutical exports have increased by nearly 40%, from just under 1.4 billion Swiss francs to just over two billion francs, and now make up roughly a third of all Swiss exports to Russia.

Numerous significant pharmaceutical corporations, notably Novartis and Roche, are based in Switzerland.

According to Novartis, “Sales in Russia were boosted by a number of causes, including the influx of patients who had postponed medical care owing to the epidemic,” according to a report in the NZZ am Sonntag.

During the conflict, the business noted, “One element was the stockpiling by patients and hospitals in anticipation of future bottlenecks.”

Switzerland, a landlocked country, has always maintained a tight neutrality policy while upholding EU sanctions against Russia.

Yet since Europe was once again at war, the topic has been heavily contested.

Switzerland has so far refused to permit nations who possess Swiss-made weapons to re-export them to Ukraine, despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies.

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