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Roche May License Tamiflu Production

October 19, 2005|From Reuters

Swiss drug maker Roche Holding, under pressure to increase the output of its antiviral drug Tamiflu as avian flu reaches Europe, said Tuesday that it would consider granting other companies licenses to make the drug.

In a move that echoes plans to make expensive HIV and AIDS treatments available in Africa, Roche said it would consider allowing companies and governments in developing nations to produce the drug in preparation for a feared bird flu pandemic.

David Reddy, head of the Swiss company's production and sales of Tamiflu, said Roche had been approached by an Asian government but no other companies. He added, however, that Roche would be willing to discuss production with Indian generic drug maker Cipla Ltd., which has said it wants to make a copycat version of Tamiflu.

Roche has come under pressure to loosen its hold on patents that protect the treatment, with calls from the United Nations to sweep away the commercial barriers to producing the drug.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Roche to license production of Tamiflu to five U.S. drug companies within the next 30 days.

In a sign that it is working to increase capacity, Roche said the Food and Drug Administration had approved a manufacturing plant in the United States, one of 12 production sites worldwide, to be used to make the drug.

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