Russia's selfless COVID-pill profiteers: Heroes of public health
Let me tell you about the very rich. They're different from you and me. They sell pills.
Nine out of ten doctors agree: in order to survive cold-like symptoms, sometimes it is necessary to permanently damage your internal organs with antiviral drugs.
This is what makes COVID so harrowing. The virus forces people to take life-ending medications.
Mikhail Murashko, Russia’s health minister and a member of the WHO Executive Board, is very much aware of this preposterous and absolutely imperative treatment regime.
“Doctors note, among other things, toxic liver damage after treatment for coronavirus. Antiviral drugs are used, which simply need to be used to save lives, but all of them are drugs that, among other things, have side effects,” Murashko said during a visit to the Kursk Regional Clinical Hospital in October.
Wackos on the internet have claimed that because “anti-COVID” drugs cause organ failure, this is somehow proof that Big Pharma and its stable of well-groomed public health ponies are trying to murder everyone.
Don’t be ridiculous. Austere health professionals and multinational conglomerates are feeding us liver-frying pills because they’re getting rich from it. You dying is just frosting on the grift-cake.
It’s a provable fact, explained in careful detail in an e-book your humble Moscow correspondent just finished writing. The first two chapters are published below:
Chapter 1: Madame Arbidol
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova is the Pablo Escobar of Russia’s Big Pharma pill peddlers. She exists on a higher plane; she makes even the most seasoned hustlers look like complete chumps. You think you can out-grift Tatyana? She’s already five toxic liver pills ahead of you. She literally runs laps around your failing liver.
Our story begins in 2009, when Golikova was unfortunately serving as Russia’s health minister, and when a different fake pandemic was terrorizing the world: “swine flu.”
After stoking fear and panic with the obligatory WHO talking points, Golikova’s health ministry issued a list of recommended treatments for overcoming the Dreaded Pig Virus: Russians were encouraged to take Anthony Fauci’s favorite scam-drug, Tamiflu, and also a medication called Arbidol.
Golikova plugged the drug months before it received the health ministry’s official endorsement, causing sales to skyrocket by 102%. In addition, Arbidol was purchased in bulk without a tender for Russia’s federal reserve stock of medicines. An article from November 2009 claimed Golikova was personally checking Moscow pharmacies to make sure they had plenty of Arbidol, and we believe it. That lady was in love with Arbidol. But, uh, why?
Arbidol was developed in Soviet times but the trademark was purchased three decades later by Pharmstandard, a drug company owned by oligarch Viktor Kharitonin. In 2007, two years before the “pandemic” arrived, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences included Arbidol on a list of “obsolete” drugs with “unproven efficacy.”
But who cares about efficacy when you have friends in high places? As Tsargrad reported in October 2021:
In the first half of 2010 alone, more than 35 million packs of Arbidol were sold. At that time, the pharmaceutical industry was supervised by Golikova’s husband, Viktor Khristenko, first as the head of the Ministry of Industry and Energy (in 2004-2008), and then, after the transformation of the department, as the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (until January 2012).
The drug is distributed by OTCpharm, a company spun off from Pharmstandard by billionaire Viktor Kharitonin. Kharitonin is a great friend of Golikova’s husband Viktor Khristenko…
As the article explains, two of Khristenko’s deputies later joined Generium, a drug company owned by Kharitonin.
Well, so what? Water under the bridge. Who can even remember 2009? Who can even remember January?
Here is an article from January 2022:
It is estimated that Russians spent 64 billion rubles on coronavirus medicines in 2021. As it turns out, Russians spent the most money on Arbidol (umifenovir) - 16.8 billion rubles. By someone’s invisible order, it was mandatory to give it to all coronavirus patients without exception. And patients are not offered an alternative.
However, we recall that this drug is known not only for its high price, but also for the fact that even in Russia it is recognized as ineffective. In other words, this is a dummy, which, for some reason, is pushed on the sick. […]
True, it is known that the developer of the drug is Pharmstandard. Its owner, Viktor Kharitonin, is also known as a very good friend of Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who is the curator of the entire anti-COVID struggle in the country.
It is also known that during the year and a half of the pandemic, Mr. Kharitonin almost tripled his fortune, to $3.4 billion. [“Tripled” doesn’t sound accurate to us, but point is: dude made a lot of rubles peddling Arbidol, again. — Edward]
Feast your eyes on this magnificent grift:
The fraud is so bold and blatant that Russians lovingly refer to Golikova as “Madame Arbidol.”
However, in September 2021, Golikova suffered a devastating setback.
Her beloved Arbidol (umifenovir) was removed from the health ministry’s list of approved COVID treatments, and replaced with… Remdesivir. Ha-ha. Oh boy.
Chapter 2: Would you like some scary HIV pills? No? Too bad.
We now turn our attention to R-Pharm, arguably the Kremlin’s most beloved pill dispenser.
In September 2018, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) acquired an estimated 10% stake in R-Pharm; in 2020, the pair teamed up to produce COVID vaccines (Sputnik V and later AstraZeneca’s shot) and other safe and effective medicines. We recently wrote an article about the gross love triangle between RDIF, R-Pharm and AstraZeneca if you want to learn more about this exciting topic.
Since time is short, we will focus on an HIV pill that R-Pharm callously rebranded as a COVID cure.
In April 2020, RBK reported that Russians were scrambling to scoop up boxes of R-Pharm’s Kaletra, a medication used to treat HIV, after the health ministry inexplicably included it (under the international generic name lopinavir / ritonavir) in the list of drugs recommended for the treatment of COVID.
Reuters even wrote a story about the creation of a Kaletra “black market” in Russia—a story we don’t really believe. But still.
Kaletra was officially recognized as a government-approved treatment for COVID in January 2020. R-Pharm announced a month later it was ramping up production of the drug.
How it was determined that Kaletra might help combat “COVID” remains a complete and total mystery. But R-Pharm was competing for delicious government rubles and who has time for “clinical trials”? By the end of April 2020, the Russian government had allocated 10 billion rubles to purchase medications and treatments to fight the Virus. R-Pharm was awarded nearly a third of this money.
But all good things must come to an end, even Kaletra:
According to some media reports, Kaletra allegedly disappeared from retail sales after it turned out that it could not cure the coronavirus. The recommendations of the Ministry of Health were edited, but it was too late to cancel state contracts for the purchase of the drug.
Undeterred, Russia’s pharma firms continue to develop fresh scams.
In April 2022, Russian drugmaker Promomed successfully registered a new anti-COVID oral drug, “Skyvira.” Maybe you have heard of this medication (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) before? It was first developed by Pfizer, under the name “Paxlovid.”
In the United States, Paxlovid is the hot new COVID pill in town. But it’s also so useless that even The Atlantic (!) is writing brutal takedowns of it:
The [US] government has ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid, committing half of the $10 billion in additional COVID funding that is being negotiated in the Senate; and Pfizer says that the number of patients taking the drug increased by a factor of 10 between mid-February and late April.
But as the treatment spreads, so too does confusion over its effectiveness and side effects. Patients have complained of a bitter, metallic taste, or one like grapefruit juice mixed with soap, the whole time they were on the drug. More concerning, some have reported experiencing a second round of symptoms, and going back to testing positive, when the pills were done, a phenomenon that’s become known as “Paxlovid rebound.” Meanwhile, Pfizer has never published any final data on the use of the drug by vaccinated patients, leaving medical professionals with little information about how the drug works for people who have received their shots—which is to say, most of the adult population in the U.S. “We’re all riding on hope at this point,” Reshma Ramachandran, a family-medicine doctor at Yale, told me.
By the way: ritonavir is used to treat HIV.
Also: the WHO endorsed nirmatrelvir and ritonavir as an “effective” COVID treatment literally a day before Skyvira got the greenlight from the Russian health ministry. (But Russia actually already had a different generic Paxlovid on the market.)
Strange times, friends.