Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Over-the-counter sales of drugs that contain codeine prohibited in Russia











As of June 1, 2012, over-the-counter sales of medical drugs containing codeine (pentalgin, nurofen, solpadeine, etc.) are banned in Russia. Those in need of such drugs would have to obtain a prescription. Those drugs are used to produce desomorphine (Krokodil), a home-made opioid. According to, it is the second most widespread illicit drug in Russia, and it is cheaper than heroin. Drug users call it Krokodil because it makes human skin resemble a crocodile’s scaly skin.

Commenting on the ban, Evgeny Roizman, head of the “City Without Drugs” foundation from Yekaterinburg, accused the Ministry of Health of inaction, “This should have been done 10 years ago. All these years the pharmaceutical industry… continued to increase production… Everyone was aware [of the Krokodil problem], and the government in the first pace, that children were being murdered. But nobody wanted to stop because of the money. It’s for a reason that these addicts are called everywhere “[former Health Minister] Golikova’s children.” Roizman said he is confident that the ban would be a major help in addressing the problem of desomorphine use in Russia.

According to human rights activist Valery Borschev, the ban will not have an expected positive effect: “Unfortunately, the policy of prohibiting medical drugs under the guise of the fight against drug addiction is not in the interest of patients.” further notes that the ban on over-the-counter sales of codein-containing drugs is already implemented in 21 Russian regions, and that has not led to worsening of the drug situation in those regions – neither has that led to shortages of painkillers (the drugs are easily replaceable).

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