Prof. Robert (Haim) Belmaker, head of the Israeli Psychiatric Association, spoke today (2018-01-05) on the סדר יום / Daily Agenda radio program (Note this is a program in Hebrew).

At some point in the conversation he claimed that "during the USSR's 70 years of existence, no new תרופה [i.e. cure/medication] was developed".

Now, ignoring the Socialism-vs-Capitalism debate (and the nature of the USSR) - is it indeed the case that no medication or medicinal drugs or compounds were developed in the USSR?

Note: I'm asking about "pharmacological" developments, not other kinds of treatments like exercises or surgical procedures and so on.

  • Can you please confirm that the word "תרופה" specifically refers medications, and not medicine as a whole? i.e. that the claim is focussed only on one limited aspect of treatment and that an answer showing the progress that the Soviet Union made in getting basic healthcare and sanitation practices out to the people doesn't count.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:01
  • 1
    @Oddthinking: Confirmed.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 23:46
  • If he is part of the Psychiatric association, is it possible he's talking specifically about psychiatric medicine etc.?
    – user43646
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 14:04
  • @Orangesandlemons: Unlikely, he was explaining how "Socialism is much worse than Capitalism" generally. Although the question still stands regardless.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 14:32
  • 3
    @blacksmith37: Even if some Russian industry may be antiquated, surely not all of it was. After all, the USSR built advanced aircraft which could match the USA's, or come close to it depending on the circumstances; it launched spaceships and submarines and so on - those are consistent advances in industrial capabilities. So it couldn't all have been 100-year-old tech.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


Concerning the claim in the question headline: it might be difficult to properly define "very little", compare that to Western medicine. Then start an argument about what counts statistically as…

Thankfully such claimants are inclined to use the absolute.

"during the USSR's 70 years of existence, no new תרופה [i.e. cure/medication] was developed".

(Emphasis mine.)

A single counter example is sufficient to disprove this claim.

Phenazepam (also known in Russia as bromdihydrochlorphenylbenzodiazepine) is a benzodiazepine drug, which was developed in the Soviet Union in 1975

But why stop there?

D. B.Jackand & N.P.Mason: "The Pharmaceutical Industry in the U.S.S.R.", Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (1987) 12,401-407
It would be a mistake, however, to give the impression that there is nothing new to say about the Soviet pharmaceutical industry. […] In October, 1985, The Times reported the recent discovery by Soviet scientists of a polymer, Feracryl, designed to replace oil in tempering processes, that proved to be a very potent haemostatic agent. Very few side-effects were observed. […]

Further examples from drugs developed in the USSR:

Gramicidin SBromantaneCorvalolFeprosidnineFluacizineGidazepamLatrepirdineMeldoniumMesocarbPhenazepamPhenibutPhenylpiracetamPicamilonPipofezineSulfozinumArabinopyranosyl-N-methyl-N-nitrosoureaAnthrax vaccines

Some of these have very interesting cultural characteristics:

Mesocarb (brand names Sidnocarb, Sydnocarb) is a stimulant drug which was developed in the USSR in the 1970s. […] Mesocarb is almost unknown in the western world and is neither used in medicine or studied scientifically to any great extent outside Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union. It has however been added to the list of drugs under international control and is illegal in most countries, despite its multiple therapeutic applications and reported lack of significant abuse potential.
(Cited from the above Wikipedia article.)

Before the seventies the general outlook of contemporary competitors was the exact opposite of the current wholesale dismissal:

"The Pharmaceutical Century – Ten Decades of Drug Discovery": The perceived “science gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union led to the 1958 National Defense Education Act.

Just some general hints from Wikipedia:

Luka (Voyno-Yasenetsky)
Nikolai Kravkov
Gavriil Ilizarov
Alexander A. Maximow
Gene pool
Kidney transplantation
Acoustic microscopy
Vladimir Demikhov
Modern synthesis (20th century)
Theodosius Dobzhansky
Phage therapy Georgy Gause
Electron paramagnetic resonance
Heart–lung transplant
Vladimir Demikhov
Lung transplantation
Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction
Anthropometric cosmetology
Ilizarov apparatus
Radial keratotomy
Svyatoslav Fyodorov

  • 2
    +1, but I specifically asked about pharmacological developments, while you seem to have listed surgey procedure developments, diagnostic methods etc. so the long list is only partially relevant.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 10:33
  • 5
    Bacteriophage Research could sneak in here too
    – daniel
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 11:18
  • What does Belousov–Zhabotinsky have to do with pharma? Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 5:36
  • 1
    Or Ilizarov (I guess = Илизаров) mentioned twice? He did not invent any new medicine. He was an excellent doctor and invented very important ways to treat people with leg traumas (this is used a lot outside of Russia now, in particular in Israel). In the USSR it was used in exactly one place: Ilizarov's Institute.
    – user56345
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 2:20

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