Taiwan to produce its' own version of Tamiflu

Taiwan has apparently responded to bird flu fears by starting work on its own version of the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, without waiting for the manufacturer's consent.

Taiwan officials say they had applied for the right to copy the drug, but their priority was to protect the public.

Although Tamiflu, made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, cannot cure bird-flu but is widely seen as the best anti-viral drug to fight it.

Bird flu has killed at least 60 people in Asia since December 2003, and scientists fear the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus could combine with human flu or mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, triggering a flu pandemic.

Several countries have already asked Roche for the right to make generic copies of Tamiflu.

Taiwan plans to produce six kg of its version of Tamiflu, which will be enough, according to the government, to renew its stocks.

Production of the drug on a small scale has already started, but Taiwan does not intend to market the drug commercially.

Birdflu was first seen in humans in Hong Kong, 1997, and almost all human cases are thought to have been contracted from birds.

There have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission as yet.

Senior health official Su Ih-jen said Taiwan had demonstrated its goodwill in talks and tried to negotiate with Roche and the country hopes it will eventually secure permission to copy the drug.

A generic version of the drug produced by the island's National Health Institute is said to be 99% akin to the Tamiflu product by Roche, and it can be made quicker and cheaper than the Roche drug.

Taiwan has not had a serious outbreak, but the virus has killed thousands of poultry and scores of people who came into contact with the birds in neighbouring countries.

It has also now spread to Europe, with the latest possible case reported in an imported parrot in the UK.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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