Swiss flu medicine producer Roche ups its preparedness

April 29th, 2009 - 7:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, April 29 (DPA) Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche announced Wednesday that it has increased its preparedness level in response to the World Health Organisation (WHO) decision to raise the pandemic influenza alert by one notch to level four.
Roche, in a statement, said it was working with “the WHO and governments around the world to make the oral anti-viral medication Tamiflu available to patients in need”.

Tamiflu, an anti-viral produced by Roche, has been deemed effective against swine flu.

Spokeswoman Martina Rupp said the company would be able to ramp up production if needed. She said Roche in 2006 had a capacity to produce 400 million treatments a year.

“That capacity was not used,” Rupp noted, “and so we scaled down.”

The drugmaker was, however, keeping its supplies at levels which would allow it to expedite production if called on to do so, such as if the WHO was to raise the phase level one more step.

The WHO system consists of six phases, the highest of which indicates a global pandemic.

Rupp said the company would not be raising the price of the drug, which is currently available to governments at the cost of 15 euros per treatment course in wealthy countries and at 12 euros in the developing world.

The company said that to date it had filled 220 million treatment courses of Tamiflu ordered by governments. As there had been no pandemic so far, these were considered the amounts available in stockpiles.

The Basel-based company also noted that it had donated 5 million packs of Tamiflu to the WHO in 2006, 2 million of which were distributed to governments to stockpile, while the rest were on standby in the Alpine country and in the US as a “rapid response” supply.

Roche, like the WHO, has noted that the world was better prepared due to steps taken following the avian flu outbreaks several years back.

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