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Fact Check-Pharma companies in TikTok video have offices outside of Ukraine

A TikTok video showing 36 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies on careers website Glassdoor is being shared online with the implication that they are all based in Ukraine. This is misleading, however, as the video shows Glassdoor search results with the location filtered to Kyiv, and most of the companies listed in the video are actually headquartered elsewhere.

The clip ( here ) viewed at least 90,000 times since it was posted on March 6, speaks to a claim made by Russia, without providing evidence, that Ukraine is running biological weapons laboratories with U.S. Defense Department support ( here ).

Russia’s accusation has been repeatedly denied by Ukraine ( here ) and the United States ( here ), where government officials warn Russia may use it as a pretext to deploy its own chemical or biological weapons ( here ).

“Take a note of of (sic) industry and location,” reads a super-imposed text in red in the clip, which shows the companies’ profiles in Glassdoor that appear by performing the following search: ( here ) using the terms “Location: Kyiv” and “Industries: BioTech and Pharmaceuticals”).

While a similar search on Glassdoor but for New York ( bit.ly/3t9yd52 ), Berlin ( bit.ly/3w5ZQ0z ), Basel ( bit.ly/3KIQWKy ) or Mexico City ( bit.ly/3KIQWKy ) returns a higher amount of results, some online have taken this clip as evidence to argue Ukraine is the “mecca for Big Pharma” ( here ) ( here ) ( here ).

Others claim this proves the presence of “U.S. biolabs in Ukraine” ( here ).

“Yep, U.S. owned biolabs in Ukraine....conspiracy theory to fact in 6 days,” a Facebook user commented ( here )

“All of these biolabs and pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in Kiev, Ukraine? Weird!” another one wrote ( here ).

Reuters reviewed the 36 corporations shown in the clip. It includes pharmaceutical companies but also outsourcing companies hired to perform clinical research (contract research organizations (CROs) ( here ) (see: www.ppd.com/contact/ , here). It also has duplicated items (for example: German Stada www.stada.com/contactand U.S.-based MSD/Merck: here).

The majority of these companies have operations in Kyiv, as well as in other parts of the world — like German company Bayer ( here ) ( here ) and British drugmaker AstraZeneca ( here ), ( here ) or Japan-based Takeda ( here ) — and are not “headquartered” in Ukraine, as claimed online ( here ) ( here ).

Only two of the countries on the list, both Ukrainian pharmaceuticals, are based in Kyiv: Farmak ( farmak.ua/en/contacts/ ) and Arterium ( www.arterium.ua/en/contacts ), ( www.arterium.ua/en/presskit ).

The other companies featured in the video, however, have headquarters elsewhere. For example: Novo Nordisk is headquartered in Bagsværd, Denmark ( here ); Sanofi is based out of Paris, France ( www.sanofi.com/ ); Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Brunswick, NJ ( here ); and GlaxoSmithKline’s headquarters are in Brentford, UK ( here ).

Reuters could not definitely confirm if the following companies in the Glassdoor list featured in the TikTok video actually have presences in Ukraine: ( here ) ( here ), ( neurotrack.com/company ), ( here ).

Ukraine, as well as Russia, have become important countries for studying new drugs because patients there have a dire need for medicines to treat cancer, neurological and gastrointestinal disorders. Russia and surrounding countries account for 10% of people in clinical trials, analysts estimate. A Reuters report on how the war in Ukraine has disrupted ongoing clinical trials in the country is viewable ( here ).

VERDICT

Misleading. Most of the pharma companies in the viral TikTok clip are not headquartered in Ukraine and have operations elsewhere; only two of them are based in Kyiv.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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