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Black Market Demand for COVID-19-Fighting HIV Drug Surges In Russia

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

News that HIV drugs were being deployed in hospitals in China and elsewhere to treat COVID-19 patients has resulted in panic hoarding on the Russian black market by speculators and people who fear they could contract the deadly virus. 

Panic hoarding began in February and has since increased months later. Reuters points out that Kaletra is one of those leading antiviral HIV drugs that are in high demand. 

Reuters' explanation of why Kaletra is in high demand dates back to January in China, where scientists used the drug on COVID-19 patients and showed encouraging results. There were also 20 other trials of the drug across the world that followed. The Russian Health Ministry even recommended Kaletra as a possible treatment but added its effectiveness was uncertain.

We noted in February that a 21-year-old man in Wuhan, China, who contracted the virus, was prescribed Kaletra, which the treatment ultimately led to his recovery.

Speculators on the black market were buying Kaletra, and the generic form Kalidavir, in large amounts earlier this year, betting shortages would develop. 

"Three months ago, people were buying Kaletra from us without much enthusiasm for 900 roubles ($12) a box," an online trader of HIV drugs told Reuters. 

"Now, anticipating (supply) interruptions, people are buying between 100 and 700 boxes from us, at 3,800 roubles ($51) a box. Mainly, people are buying (Kaletra) with the aim of reselling it for a very high price."

The trader said a box now fetches 7,000-8,000 roubles ($94-$108), which is a dramatic increase in the price from several months ago. 

The prescription-only HIV medicine is ordered in bulk by the Russian health ministry and handed out to HIV patients for free. Still, with panic hoarding over the last several months, supply disruptions could materialize.

The director of H-Clinic in St. Petersburg, who specializes in infectious diseases, said HIV patients at his pharmacy had been worried that the supply of the medication would run out thanks to the new demand. 

"We have a van coming from the pharmaceutical company, and everything in it has already been claimed in orders," H-Clinic's Andrei Skvortsov told Reuters. "There were up to 120 calls a day."

Skvortsov said there were ample supplies of the generic drug, but it was the distributor of Kaletra that said supplies had recently become exhausted. 

A person that goes by the name of Alexei, who asked Reuters for anonymity, operates a 'back-up medicine cabinet' that delivers leftover drugs to people in need when shortages emerge. 

He said, "Messages and calls started coming in from people saying they were ready to purchase these medicines." 

Alexei said there are "resellers and middlemen" attempting to acquire as much of the HIV drug as they can.

R-Pharm CEO Alexei Repik said Kaletra is in high demand, and it is now being sold illegally at some pharmacies. 

Repik said he was boosting the output of Kaletra as the pandemic could worsen. 

"But of course, no one can predict the full scale of the epidemic," he added.

Demand for Kaletra has flourished on the Russian black market as the world is without a vaccine at the moment for COVID-19. Speculators, who bet on the shortages of the drug would arrive, have been handsomely rewarded as cases and deaths surge in Russia.


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