Around 95% of Russians think they are in good or fair health, but only 44% have visited a physician within the last year and diagnosis rates for chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) remain low, says a new study.

The prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Russia is about 13.1%, yet awareness of the condition stands at just 7.5%, while for cancer the percentages are 1.8% and 0.3%, respectively, according to the report, which is published by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and Russia's Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (AIPM).

"Heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory disease together are responsible for 80% of all deaths in Russia," said AIPM executive director Vladimir Shipkov. "There is a significant gap between what people think is their state of health and the negative impact of their actual behaviour. This makes NCDs a high-risk factor for Russians," he added.

The study also found that while most Russians know about the links between incidence of NCDs and risk factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, unhealthy diet and low levels of exercise, 82% of respondents report that between one and three of these harmful factors are a feature of their everyday life, and only 9% consider that their lifestyles involve no such risk factors. 

The major influence in changing risky behaviour could be a physician - more than 50% of respondents told the survey that they would be willing to give up unhealthy habits if they received a warning of a potential threat of disease from their doctor.

Half of all deaths and disability caused by NCDs are preventable, so it makes sense to put considerable efforts into prevention programmes, commented Mario Ottiglio, associate director of public affairs and global health policy at IFPMA.

“The benefits reaped would not limit themselves to improved health for individuals and avoiding the suffering that often accompanies NCDs. There would also be relief from the mounting pressure on health care systems and the economic burden of such diseases on society as a whole," he added.

• A recent report from research firm RNCOS forecasts that the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disorders in Russia will help the domestic pharmaceutical experience a "stupendous" compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 13% during 2011-13.

This fast growth will be further boosted by the government's Pharma 2020 Strategy, a programme of reforms which seeks to lessen the country's dependence on expensive imported medicines. The Strategy aims to have 50% of drugs sold on the Russian market to be domestically-produced by 2020, with 80% of these to be "innovative."