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Sharapova scandal a grand slam for Latvian heart drug

Mildronāts, the Latvia-made heart drug, has recently come into the international spotlight due to doping scandals. The inventor of the medicine, Ivars Kalviņš, has no rest from international media, while manufacturer Grindeks is gearing up production due to skyrocketing demand for the drug, reported LTV7 Thursday.

Mildronāts, Mildronate, or meldonium is a heart drug. It has been used to treat ischemia, or lack of blood flow.

The world is now interested in the drug, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on January 1, as tennis player Maria Sharapova revealed she faces a ban from competitive sports after testing positive for the drug, which she claims to have used for years.

Grindeks reps say demand has skyrocketed as a result.

"There's almost no continent from which there's no interest over where to buy it, how to get it and when. There's a lot of interest from specialists.

It's a new breath and new possibilities [for business]," Juris Bundulis, board chairman of the Grindeks pharmacy company, told LTV7.

The heart drug saw its patent run out 10 years ago, and is produced not only by Grindeks but also Latvian Olainfarm and several companies across the former Soviet bloc under spin-off brands.

Head of the Organic Synthesis Institute Ivars Kalviņš has no rest from foreign journalists as everyone is trying to wrap their heads around over what's Mildronāts and why it was banned by the WADA. 

The inventor himself does not consider Mildronāts to be doping.

"I would like to know who'll take the responsibility for the deaths that will take place on basketball and tennis courts [due to the ban].

As when a sportsman will cross the threshold a heart attack will start," said Kalviņš, likely referring to potential consequences of forcing athletes off the drug. 

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova recently said she has been using the now-banned drug for ten years and is to be suspended provisionally starting March 12.

Other athletes, like Russian Olympic gold medalist figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, have also admitted to testing positive for meldonium.

Developed in Latvia, meldonium has been used to treat ischemia, or lack of blood flow. Meldonium had previously been on the World Anti-Doping Agency list of drugs to be monitored.

Mildronāts is one of the most successful medicinal exports from Latvia. In 2013, export turnover of the drug reached €65 million. It is produced by the Latvian pharmaceutical company Grindeks.

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