Parallel Profits: Bulgaria’s Medical Drug Dealers

Dimitar Iliev Svilengrad, Sofia, Lisbon

Lax controls over the ‘parallel trade’ of expensive pharmaceuticals makes Bulgaria’s health care system ripe for plunder. Patients are the losers.

A customer pays for medicine at a pharmacy in Sofia. Photo: Iliana Kirilova

Nadia Miteva has artificial knees and hips. Wire runs along her upper vertebrae to stabilise her neck bones. When she speaks, she presses a red button on a tube in her throat, installed during recent vocal cord surgery.

“It’s collateral damage from the rheumatic disease,” she said.

For Miteva, who runs a community centre in the southern Bulgarian village of Sladun, near the town of Svilengrad, only one thing keeps her severe rheumatoid arthritis at bay: a weekly shot of an immunosuppressive drug called RoActemra.

Without it, she is in agony.

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