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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Taiwan to produce bird flu drug without license from Roche - Yahoo! Australia & NZ News

Taiwan to produce bird flu drug without license from Roche - Yahoo! Australia & NZ NewsSaturday November 26, 09:57 PM

Taiwan to produce bird flu drug without license from Roche
Photo : AFP
TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan has decided to go ahead with production of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu for use against bird flu despite its failure to obtain a license from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche.

Roche said Friday it would supply Taiwan with all the Tamiflu it required and turned down its request for a license to produce the drug itself for local use.

That decision disappointed Taiwanese authorities, who granted the island's Department of Health permission to manufacture Tamiflu for resident use only, to supplement drugs obtained from Roche.

Officials said production of Tamiflu could go on until December 31, 2007, but that permission would be revoked should Taiwan reach a subsequent patent agreement with Roche.

Taiwan said it would discuss compensation for Roche if the home-produced drug were used prior to approval from the company.

"We have to prepare enough amount of Tamiflu to protect our people in case of a bird flu outbreak, so mass production is scheduled for next year," said Liao Chi-chou, director of the department's Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs.

"But we would only use the locally-produced drugs if the Tamiflu we bought from Roche were not enough," he said.

The Swiss firm said it had promised to provide the island with 1.3 million additional treatments next year, bringing the total to 2.3 million.

"We are confident that we will be in a position to deliver the quantities of Tamiflu requested by the Taiwanese government in the required timelines," said David Reddy, who is in charge of Roche's pandemic response team.

"Therefore, the possibility of a compulsory licence being invoked is unnecessary."

But Liao said Taiwan was not confident that Roche would be able to deliver on its promise.

Health officials said earlier Taiwan had acquired materials to make enough Tamiflu to treat 2.3 million people, or 10 percent of the population.

Fears over a possible bird flu outbreak intensified here after eight pet birds smuggled from China tested positive for the H5N1 virus last month. All the smuggled birds had been destroyed.

In 2004, Taiwan slaughtered 467,000 birds, mostly chickens, after the less virulent H5N2 strain was discovered in chicken farms on offshore Kinmen islet.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in Southeast Asia since 2003.

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