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Cablegate: Russian Deputy Health Minister Wants Expanded Health

VZCZCXRO9226
PP RUEHAST RUEHDBU RUEHDH RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSK
RUEHSL RUEHTRO RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0189/01 0271232
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271232Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6060
INFO RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK PRIORITY 3460
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG PRIORITY 3802
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG PRIORITY 5589
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 000189

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
AIDAC

DEPT FOR EUR/RUS, EUR/PGI, OES/PCI, OES/IHB
OES/FO FOR CARTER-FOSTER
STATE PLEASE PASS TO NAS, NSF, AND USAID
USAID FOR GH, E&E
HHS FOR OGHA
HHS PLEASE PASS TO NIH AND FDA
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA FOR MACKE
DOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO PREL EAID SOCI KHIV TSPL ETRD ELAB EAGR KIPR
RS

SUBJECT: Russian Deputy Health Minister Wants Expanded Health
Cooperation

REF: 09 MOSCOW 2978

MOSCOW 00000189 001.2 OF 004


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In their upbeat December 14 meeting, Russian
Deputy Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova and Ambassador Beyrle
agreed that the Bilateral Presidential Commission's Working Group on
Health should promote a substantial expansion of cooperation on
health and medical sciences. They concurred that it would be
effective to create sub-groups to work on a few high-priority areas
including cardiovascular diseases, healthy lifestyles, preventive
medicine, road safety, and information technology applications.
Skvortsova asked for detailed information on current National
Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to Russian partners so that she
could seek comparable Russian co-funding. Ambassador Beyrle noted
and Skvortsova acknowledged that USAID and MOHSD are preparing a new
cooperation document which would expand the existing partnership in
several areas. After the Ambassador raised serious U.S. concerns
regarding pending Russian regulations on pork and poultry
processing, Skvortsova said that she is interested in studying the
available research demonstrating the safety of chlorine in poultry
processing. She indicated that her ministry would participate in
the Agriculture Working Group of the Bilateral Commission if
invited, so that U.S. and Russian scientists could cooperate on food
safety issues. When the Ambassador raised concern over rumors that
a revision of the pharmaceuticals law by the Ministry of Health and
Social Development (MOHSD) does not include intellectual property
rights provisions required for WTO accession, Skvortsova only
acknowledged that there are different versions being drafted by both
her Ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development. END
SUMMARY.

LAUNCHING THE HEALTH WORKING GROUP
----------------------------------

2. (U) On December 14, Ambassador Beyrle met with Deputy Minister of
Health and Social Development Veronika Skvortsova and an interagency
gathering of Russian health officials to agree on an agenda for
cooperation under the Health Working Group of the U.S.-Russia
Bilateral Presidential Commission. The discussion built upon two
earlier meetings in late November and early December in which
Skvortsova and officials of NIH and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) had defined areas of mutual interest for joint
work (reftel) and continued dialogue with USAID and its implementing
partners. In response to a proposal on areas of collaboration that
MOHSD gave to the Embassy at the end of September, the Ambassador
presented both a U.S.-drafted expanded table of proposed areas of
cooperation and a concrete list of U.S. proposals for cooperation
activities for the immediate future. He also handed Skvortsova a
letter from Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Howard Koh, inviting her to visit HHS during a planned trip to the
United States in late February. (N???: Skvortsova, a specialist in
stroke research, plans to attend an international stroke conference
in San Antonio, Texas, on February 23. Post's health working group
will follow up directly with MOHSD's International Department and
HHS to arrange this and other meetings as appropriate. END NOTE.)
The Ambassador explained that Dr. Koh hoped to visit Moscow March
10-11 to lead the U.S. side for the first meeting of the Health
Working Group.

3. (SBU) To help activate cooperation, the Ambassador suggested
forming expert sub-groups on cardiovascular diseases and healthy
lifestyles, which are high priorities for both countries.
Skvortsova endorsed the suggestion and countered with a proposal to
establish additional sub-groups on preventive medicine, information
technology and telemedicine, and road safety. She also expressed

MOSCOW 00000189 002.2 OF 004


interest in continuing the existing U.S.-Russia collaboration in
developing countries under the Bratislava Initiative, which USAID
has been facilitating. She informed the Ambassador that MOHSD, in
partnership with USAID and host government counterparts in third
countries, had selected nine experts to take part in joint field
work on HIV, tuberculosis, and other diseases of global importance
in the past year, and agreed that this work could be extended. The
Ambassador noted preparations for a new cooperation document between
USAID and MOHSD, planned for 2010, which will build upon and expand
joint activities.

AN EMPHATIC "YES" TO COOPERATION ON LABOR ISSUES
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) The Ambassador informed Skvortsova that the U.S. Department
of Labor is interested in possible cooperation with MOHSD on
workplace health and safety, mine safety, and employment for the
disabled. Skvortsova responded emphatically that the Ministry is
interested in cooperating on these issues. She said that Natalya
Zharova, head of the Ministry's Department of Wages, Occupational
Safety, and Social Partnerships, would be responsible for this
cooperation. (NOTE: We conveyed Skvortsova's interest to Department
of Labor officials in December and will follow up with them to
discuss next steps for cooperation on these issues. END NOTE.)

RUSSIA READY TO CO-FUND MEDICAL RESEARCH
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Ambassador called Russia's taxation of research grants
an obstacle to expanding cooperation. Skvortsova said that she is
pleased that U.S.-Russian scientific interaction is growing and said
that Russia is interested in co-funding research projects on an
equal basis. This would obviate the need to obtain tax exemption
for grants by having Russian partners funded from Russian sources.
She cited the model of Russia-EU cooperation on biomedical research,
which is implemented jointly with the Ministry of Education and
Science (MES). She noted that she had already discussed the idea
with MES Minister Andrey Fursenko, whose agency is responsible for
approving research grants, including in biomedical sciences.

6. (SBU) Skvortsova recommended that joint research projects link
institutions, rather than individual scientists. She asked that the
Embassy provide detailed information about current NIH grants to
Russian scientists so that her Ministry may determine the most
promising areas for joint research in time to amend the 2010 federal
budget. The Ambassador agreed to provide more information, but he
urged that the working groups should expand joint work into new
areas and new activities, not replace or obstruct existing
partnerships. Skvortsova agreed with that approach, saying that the
working group "should not change relations between scientists and
specialists," that it should "expand and deepen interaction" and
"add a new quality to the work." She clarified that she would need
to ask Minister Fursenko about funding.

7. (SBU) NOTE: Following on Skvortsova's December 1 meeting with NIH
representatives, the Embassy had already forwarded general
information on the overall volume of NIH grants to Russian partners
and the subjects of the research, but without naming specific
grantees. We continue to follow up with NIH to provide additional
information as appropriate. Some potential U.S. partners have
voiced concern that interagency rivalries on the Russian side might
cause disruption of ongoing programs if the programs are brought to
the Ministry's attention in this way. In an example of such a
rivalry, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, which is primarily
responsible for international cooperation on biomedical sciences,
submitted proposals for bilateral science cooperation to MOHSD,

MOSCOW 00000189 003.2 OF 004


according to our contacts at the Academy, but the Ministry did not
include them in its list of proposed activities. END NOTE.

ADDRESSING CONCERNS ON POULTRY PROCESSING
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Ambassador expressed serious concern that proposed
Russian restrictions on chlorine use and antibiotics, together with
zero tolerances for naturally occurring bacteria, which were set to
go into effect on December 15, would effectively shut down $400
million in annual U.S. pork trade and threatened to close down an
additional $700 million in poultry trade as of January 1, 2010. The
Ambassador passed Skvortsova a packet of scientific reports
demonstrating the safety of chlorine use.

9. (SBU) Skvortsova reminded the Ambassador that food safety is
regulated by the Ministry's Department of Health Protection and
Epidemiological Well-Being, as well as by the Federal Service for
Surveillance for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being
(Rospotrebnadzor). Representatives of both agencies were present at
the meeting. Skvortsova said that Russia had carried out its own
studies in this area and remained concerned about the toxicity of
chlorine and its potential to cause cancer. Also, she said, Russia
had found a possible link between residual antibiotics on food
products and drug resistance in humans, and the government is
responsible for protecting the public against such effects. She
noted that harmless chemical treatment methods are available for
poultry and meat processing, but that it would also be useful to
study available data on the effects of chlorine and antibiotics and
cooperate on further research. She said she would discuss the issue
with the MOHSD departments concerned, as well as with
Rospotrebnadzor and the Ministry of Agriculture. A USDA-USTR
delegation visited Russia January 18-21 to discuss the issue
directly with Rospotrebnadzor (septel).

10. (SBU) The Ambassador asked Dr. Skvortsova whether an MOHSD
representative could participate in the Working Group on Agriculture
under the Bilateral Presidential Commission, so that U.S. and
Russian scientists might cooperate more closely on food safety
concerns. Skvortsova responded that MOHSD would participate if
invited to do so.

DATA EXCLUSIVITY IN PHARMACEUTICAL LAW
--------------------------------------

11. (SBU) The Ambassador raised U.S. concerns regarding intellectual
property rights (IPR) protection in the current draft of a new "Law
on the Circulation of Medicines." The current draft does not
include a provision for six years of data exclusivity, to which
Russia committed in the November 2006 Bilateral Agreement ("side
letter") on IPR as a condition for its accession to the World Trade
Organization (WTO). Skvortsova stated that there are in fact two
draft laws in question: an amendment to the Law on Medicines
developed by the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and
submitted to the government in 2008, and new draft legislation
developed by MOHSD in 2009 that would replace Russia's existing Law
on Medicines to regulate all stages of the drug industry in Russia.
When the Ambassador pointed out that MOHSD's draft Law on
Circulation of Medicines does not include the data exclusivity
provisions, Skvortsova responded: "Both versions will go to the
Duma, and we shall see what results." (NOTE: MOHSD's draft took
precedent and went to the Duma on December 26. The MED data
exclusivity amendments have not yet been presented. The Duma's
Health Committee is taking industry comments until January 25.
Industry is working to submit comments to the committee on time.
End Note).

MOSCOW 00000189 004.2 OF 004

POLICY EXCHANGE ON HEALTHCARE REFORM
------------------------------------

12. (SBU) At the conclusion of the meeting, at Skvortsova's request,
the Ambassador gave a summary of the latest developments in U.S.
healthcare reform. Skvortsova listened intently and asked the
Ambassador why the proposed reforms are so controversial. She
acknowledged the extreme complexity of the issues in play and said
that she would be interested in further discussions of the reform
process as it continues.

13. (SBU) COMMENT: This third meeting between Dr. Skvortsova and
U.S. officials in less than a month further demonstrated the Health
Ministry's strong interest in revitalizing cooperation with the
United States, as well as the close alignment of our interests in
this area. Although we have not yet met with Minister of Health and
Social Development Tatyana Golikova herself, the meetings with
Skvortsova have nonetheless been highly productive, as Skvortsova is
a career health professional with a strong personal interest in
advancing these issues.

BEYRLE

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