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Tue, Dec 13, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Roche grants first sub-license to China to produce Tamiflu

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Roche Holding AG, the maker of the Tamiflu influenza treatment, said it identified 12 drugmakers to help it boost the production of the antiviral that may be effective against lethal bird flu.

The company granted a first sub-license to Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group (上海醫藥集團) for the production of Tamiflu for pandemic use in China, the drugmaker said yesterday in a statement on its Web site. Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland, said it's holding talks for local partnerships in other countries.

Roche is under pressure worldwide to increase production capacity to more than 300 million treatments before 2007 by licensing the product as governments prepare for a potential global epidemic. About 200 organizations and countries have contacted Roche about making Tamiflu, though many may not have the quality, technical ability and the speed required, according to the company.

"We have not identified anyone who could significantly speed up the agreed delivery timelines for the first half of 2006, but we have been able to identify partners to insure against breakdowns in supply and partners to broaden geographic coverage," said William Burns, head of Roche's Pharmaceutical Division.

Roche has already given permission to the governments of the Philippines and Indonesia to make Tamiflu. Roche said earlier this month that it's in talks with eight generic manufactures and major drugmakers on the drug. It didn't name other companies or organizations involved in the manufacturing discussions.

Avian flu, confirmed as the killer of 70 people in Asia since last year, is causing fears of an outbreak that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates may kill as many as 7.4 million people. There have been 137 human cases from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the WHO said yesterday.

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