Import substitution of medicines. Under this slogan, a number of domestic pharmaceutical manufacturers have grown in Belarus over the past decade. But, as our investigation revealed, the Ministry of Health approved the creation of a pool of fake medical supplies manufacturers, and buys imported medicines from them, for budget money, at a price several times higher than the market price.
The Ministry of Health is talking about problems with money for the purchase of medicines. And although the critical shortage is still closed by unscheduled purchases, the lack of funds is already visible in providing doctors with means of protection against COVID, according to E.R. doctor Alexander Vashchula:
“Disposable masks that need to be issued and changed every two hours, are given 2-3-4 per day. They are saving money”
How effectively are the funds spent, that remain for hospital medicines? We conducted our own investigation and checked all 720 positions of planned medical supplies purchases at the end of the year and found that most of the prices for them are close to market prices.
The “Trastuzumab”, which is used in the treatment of cancer, has become several times cheaper, although the supplier remained the same: the company “Nativita”, controlled by Vitebsk businessman Alexey Sychev.
At the same time, Victoria Alexandrova, a consultant on investment projects in the pharmaceutical market, notes the specifics of Belarusian purchases:
“If we are talking about cancer medicines, we need to expand the number of patients and public access to medicines. This affects life expectancy, the mortality rate, and the quality of medical care. Therefore, it should be a priority of the state”.
In our previous investigation, we uncovered a scheme according to which the system of the Ministry of Health overpaid millions of dollars annually to Sychev’s structures. The scheme was as follows. Alexey Sychev built a factory for the production of supposedly domestic medicines. And he registered a number of medical supplies – including the anti-cancer “T-Mab”, the Belarusian version of the previously mentioned “trastuzumab”. And he began to supply this medicine to Belarusian hospitals:
“In terms of last year sales, Nativita became the leader in the oncology segment and took the 5th position in the ranking of companies in the hospital segment.”
In fact, the newly built Nativita factory in Beshenkovichi did not make a full cycle of manufacturing anti-cancer drugs, which was confirmed by Konstantin Frolenkov, Deputy Director for production of Nativita:
“At the beginning of March, we officially submitted documents to the Center of Expertise for making changes. We used to pack, but now we are moving to a full cycle.”
So, in the case of Trastuzumab, Nativita simply imported drugs produced by the Russian company Biocad. At first, they paid the state-owned Academpharm to pack them in Nativita boxes.
Our sources told us that Alexey Sychev’s connections go all the way up to the former long-term health minister Vasily Zharko. According to a number of experts, Vasily Zharko continues to influence personnel appointments, and therefore decisions in his former department, even after his resignation.
In order to check the rumors about Zharko’s connections with Sychev, we studied all aspects of their activities. Our attention was attracted by a report in “Nasha Niva” that Vasily Zharko finished building the family cottage and at the same time gave his daughter Olga a luxury apartment.
Looking through the real estate transactions of that period, we came across another one that caught our attention.
Nemiga 42, an apartment of 86 meters, which previously belonged to Vasily Zharko and his daughter Olga. And in the autumn of 2018, the apartment goes as a gift to Fedor Sychev – the son of the owner of “Nativita”, “Vitvar” and “Akonitfarma”.
We can’t yet say that this deal had anything to do with the other real estate shuffles in the Zharko family at the time. Or that all this had something in common with the case of the doctors, which then flared up and in which Alexey Sychev appeared in the status of a suspect. Vasily Zharko was also invited to talk with the investigators. The only thing that we can say with certainty at the moment is that the family of the minister, who overpaid millions of dollars from the budget in favor of the entrepreneur, has private ties with the family of this entrepreneur. NAVINY publications.by and “Nasha Niva”, tracking the career of Vasily Zharko, conclude that he could be a protégé of Lyudmila Postoyalko – the grandmother of Nikolai Lukashenko.