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Novartis says it did not send substances for chemical weapons to Syria

Published on 01/07/19 at 10:51am

Swiss firm Novartis has said that it did not send chemicals that could be used to make chemical weapons to Syria.

The announcement comes after German chemicals wholesaler Brenntag was found to have sent the chemicals diethylamine and isopropanol – which could be used to manufacture chemical weapons – to a Syrian pharmaceutical company called Mediterranean Pharmaceutical Industries (MPI) in 2014.

Brenntag, the largest chemicals distributor in the world, sent the chemicals isopropanol and diethylamine to Syria via a Swiss subsidiary in 2014. Isopropanol and diethylamine can be used to make the banned nerve agent sarin, which UN experts say was used by the Assad regime during the Syrian civil war.

However, Brenntag was clear in stating that the “delivery of both products was made in accordance with applicable law,” as it suggested that the exports “did not circumvent EU export restrictions.”

Novartis later made clear that it did not supply chemicals that could be used to manufacture nerve agents to MPI, after it was found that they had granted contract manufacturing and local distribution rights for products such as the pain relief skin gel Voltaren to the Syrian company MPI.

Novartis said that while it did supply the active ingredient used in Voltaren to MPI, it did not supply any other ingredients – such as isopropanol or diethylamine.

“It was the responsibility of MPI to obtain the necessary adjuvants required for production itself directly from a third party supplier,” Novartis said. “Novartis exported neither isopropanol nor diethylamine to Syria at that time nor does it do so currently.”

Novartis added that it had voluntarily handed over MPI manufacturing documents, after being asked by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs to do so in May of last year.  

Louis Goss

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