On March 16, 2004 , Bagrat Yesayan, an advisor to the president of Armenia , organized a round-table discussion on the subject of corruption in the pharmaceutical market, with health ministry officials, NGO representatives, and journalists participating. The discussion touched on issues raised by articles in Hetq related to the distribution and expiration of humanitarian medicine. But while addressing a number of issues, including humanitarian medicine, Deputy Minister of Health Tatul Hakobyan claimed that all the problems were due to "shortcomings in the legislation."
The head of the Department of Medical and Technological Supply of the Ministry of Health, Artashes Bisharyan, who is in charge of the distribution of medicine sent to Armenia through humanitarian channels stated, " Armenia 's reserves of humanitarian medicine are limited. A majority of the drugs are not registered. Although the drugs are tested for quality, we should try to import medicine with lasting dates and to distribute them correctly." After Bisharyan's short comment, Bagrat Yesayan again turned to the recent publications about the distribution of humanitarian medicine and stated that the process must be very transparent. "Perhaps the medicine entering Armenia as humanitarian assistance has become an article of trade?" he wondered. And Bisharyan's response was: "I consider the comments made in the press to be wrong and distorted, and that is why I don't respond to them."
Two days after this discussion, on March 17, 2004 , investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia discovered a large amount of various unregistered medicine and medical supplies in the attic of the Republican Center for Humanitarian Assistance. Assistant to the Prosecutor General Hovik Hakhverdyan told the journalists present at the time that the inquiry would find out why these drugs sent to Armenia as humanitarian assistance had expired, and why they hadn't reached those who needed them.
A criminal investigation into this case has been instituted by the Prosecutor's Office. Deputy Minister of Health Tatul Hakobyan was surprised to see journalists when he arrived at the scene. He appeared panic stricken. Tatul Hakobyan, by the way, was also involved in the distribution of the humanitarian medicine for a time. It is possible that a portion of the medicine that was discovered has expired during this period.
To be continued