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Sales of meldonium soar after Sharapova's positive drug test

The Soviet-era drug was thrust into the spotlight on 7 March, after the tennis star admitted to using it.

Tablets and vials of meldonium, also known as mildronate, are photographed in Moscow.
Tablets and vials of meldonium, also known as mildronate, are photographed in Moscow.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

SALES OF THE doping drug meldonium have more than doubled in Russia since the nation’s tennis star, Maria Sharapova, admitted to taking the substance, according to a survey published on Friday.

Russian pharmaceutical outlets sold 78,300 boxes of meldonium between March 7-13, 220 percent more than in the previous week, according to a survey by DSM Group, which tracks the pharmaceutical sector.

The Soviet-era drug was thrust into the spotlight on 7 March, when Sharapova said she had tested positive at the Australian Open.

Sharapova maintained she took it for health reasons, and not as a performance enhancer, and was unaware it had been banned by doping watchdogs.

The drug, manufactured in Latvia, dates from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. It is used to treat ischaemia, a lack of blood flow to parts of the body.

The increase in blood flow it produces could improve endurance and recovery time after exercise.

The doping scandal was a very good advertising boost for meldonium, enabling it to be introduced to a much broader public,” DSM Group’s chief executive, Sergei Shulyak, said in a statement.

“People felt that if Sharapova used the medication, that meant it really helped.”

Shulyak said patients fearing that demand for the drug would cause its price to rocket had also been stockpiling the medicine.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on 11 March it had recorded 99 positive tests for meldonium since 1 January.

WADA moved meldonium from its “monitored” to “prohibited” list at the start of 2016 “because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.”

AFP 2016

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