Let's all have a go - Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan to make their own Tamiflu

Drug giant Roche, the makers of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, say that both Thailand and the Philippines are free to begin making their own versions of the drug.

The medication which governments are madly stockpiling as a precaution against a virulent outbreak of flu, does not have patent protection in either country, meaning that the Thai and Philippine governments are free to make their own versions.

This follows a similar decision by Indonesia last week and could create a source of cheap Tamiflu for other developing countries who are unable to afford the Roche-branded drug.

According to a Roche spokesman, Tamiflu is not patent protected in either country and so there is no question about granting a license or sub-licence for production, and there will be no financial consequences if the two southeast Asian countries begin their own production of the drug.

Taiwan, where the drug has a patent, has already said it will produce Tamiflu under compulsory license if its stocks run dry, which has surprised the Swiss firm which says it can meet demand.

Apparently government researchers have successfully duplicated 20 grams of Tamiflu, and say they are ready for mass production if necessary.

The drug is protected in China and has a patent pending in India.

According to Roche, Tamiflu is hard to produce, and takes a year as it requires a chain of different processes, some of which are dangerous.

Roche has declined to comment on how close any of the three governments are to being able to produce Tamiflu domestically, and say they will not speculate but as a responsible company they are willing to discuss whether they can contribute.

Indonesia, which has confirmed 12 cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian flu virus, has said it will begin making the anti-viral drug in three to five months, and will probably elect state-owned drugs companies to produce the treatment.

Patents for the drug in major markets are held by the drug's inventor Gilead Sciences Inc, while Roche holds a development and licensing agreement.

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