Roche to meet flu vaccine demands

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tamiflu Influenza

With the aim of meeting government's needs for pandemic planning,
Roche has announced it is on track to produce 300 million Tamiflu
treatments annually from 2007, after stepping up its production
capacity.

>Roche​ has increased its Tamiflu (oseltamivir) production by ten-fold since 2004, in an effort to keep up with burgeoning demand for the therapy. New customers have at been facing a waiting time of up to two years.

"We have continually increased our production capacities and also entered into discussions with a number of interested parties to expand world wide supply, so governments can be as prepared as possible for an influenza pandemic,"​ said William Burns, CEO division Roche Pharma.

The demand for Tamiflu stems from the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation, as part of its Pandemic Preparedness Plan, that countries establish stockpiles of antiviral treatments that are effective against all strains of the influenza virus.

Tamiflu has been recognised by the WHO as the first-line treatment of choice for bird flu or A/H5N1, tipped to be the most likely strain of the virus to cause a human pandemic.

Tamiflu is designed to be active against all clinically relevant influenza viruses and key international research groups have demonstrated, using animal models of influenza that Tamiflu is effective against the avian H5N1 strain circulating in the Far East.

It works by blocking the action of the neuraminidase (NAI) enzyme on the surface of the virus. When NAI is inhibited, the virus is not able to spread to and infect other cells in the body.

Most avian influenza viruses are not infectious to humans, but, should an avian and a human influenza virus co-infect a human or a pig, the virus strains can join, mutate and create a completely new virus, which may be transmissible from animals to humans, and from humans to humans.

Roche has pledged to donate 3 million treatments to the WHO for use where an influenza pandemic may start. This amount, according to experts, could contain or stop the spread of a potential pandemic at the source of the outbreak, if delivered rapidly.

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