Experts perplexed over why Sharapova was taking banned heart drug

Wed Mar 9, 2016 1:09pm EST
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - The medicine Maria Sharapova says she has taken for 10 years due to a family history of heart issues and diabetes is an old drug sold in just a few Eastern European countries that can also boost exercise tolerance.

The tennis star tested positive for the banned drug meldonium, or Mildronate, in a sample taken on January 26, the day of her Australian Open quarter finals defeat to Serena Williams.

She said her family doctor had first given her the drug 10 years ago after she frequently became sick, had irregular electrocardiogram results, a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.

The 28-year old Russian, a five-time grand slam champion and the highest paid woman in sports, will be provisionally suspended starting March 12, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said.

For the health conditions Sharapova says she has, however, doctors say the scientific evidence for Mildronate is limited compared with many medicines widely available in Europe and the United States, where Sharapova trains, which have full regulatory backing and years of robust safety and efficacy data.


Meldonium is cheap and available over the counter without a prescription in some eastern European countries, where it is marketed as Mildronate by the Latvian pharmaceutical firm Grindeks.

The drug, originally developed by scientists at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, is not licensed by two of the world's biggest medicines regulators: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States where Sharapova trains, and the EU's European Medicines Agency.   Continued...

A manufacturing operator works at the Mildronate (Meldonium) medication packaging process in the production plant of the Grindeks pharmaceutical company in Riga, Latvia, November 23, 2010. Picture taken November 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Ints Kalnins