A black market has developed in Russia for an antiviral HIV drug explored as a possible treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, according to sellers, HIV activists and the head of the drug’s main Russian producer.
More than 20 trials around the world are testing Kaletra as a COVID-19 treatment or post-exposure prophylaxis. Russia’s Health Ministry recommended it as a possible treatment for COVID-19 at the end of January after reports from China that it was beneficial, but later added that its efficacy was uncertain.
“Three months ago, people were buying Kaletra from us without much enthusiasm for 900 rubles ($12) a box,” one online trader of HIV drugs said. Resellers can get 7,000-8,000 rubles per box, the trader said – and that frenzy is worrying some HIV-positive people.
In Russia, the generic version of Kaletra is sold as Kalidavir. The government provides it for free to “registered” HIV patients but shortages have occurred in the past.