One man’s pill is another man’s poison. Ambivalence of definitional power: the case of breast cancer drugs in Russia
Russian cancer policy is being shaped in line with the militaristic metaphor of pharmacological war against cancer with the drug-bullets that are produced in Russia. This study examines the role of meaning making (definitional) power in the arrangement of political choice with regard to this policy. It is aimed at demonstrating that in contrast to the European experiences, political reliance on innovative cancer therapy in the fight against cancer in Russia carries an ambivalent charge.
The study presents a case of the marketization of Russian biosimilar of effective Swiss medication for breast cancer. This case study is supplemented by an ethnography of the Russian field of cancer care and qualitative discourse analysis of the media sources.
Data were collected from the open press materials, the expert interviews and “Medialogia”, social media monitoring system.
The findings indicate that Russian government authorities emphasize technological and protectionist aspects, while governments in Western high-income countries recognize their dependence on human capital, consumer longevity, and voters’ quality of life. In Russia, the management of oncological diseases is subordinated to the sale of domestic medicines on the national procurement market. This choice is ambivalent because it leads to the short-term success of the domestic Russian pharmaceuticals but in the long run increases the cancer burden both for the Russian state budget and for the Russian citizens.