Captain Snarky

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18 October 2005

Europe on the Watch

Europe is facing up to fears of the pandemic with HN51 being identified in Turkey, Romania and now possibly Greece. Interestingly, the EU is being quite frank in saying that it is not really ready for a major outbreak. Poultry shipments from infected areas were quickly shut down by the EU, and Roche is saying that they are stepping up production in Europe.

Here in the US, PharmaLive is reporting on Senator Charles E. Schumer's increasingly visible efforts to get Roche to do whatever it takes to increase production of Tamiflu in the US. Go Charles - it would be appropriate to see more congress people stepping up like this. Roche has released a statement saying that they will be building a new plant in the US, which is a longer term project than Schumer has in mind, saying that he wants Roche to reach an agreement with a new partner to produce Tamiflu in the next two weeks.

The Bloomberg article also hits on the Intellectual Property angle to production of Tamiflu:

Roche is under pressure from politicians to give up its patents for the product, which can treat bird flu in humans. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Taiwanese health ministers have questioned whether only the Basel, Switzerland-based company should be making Tamiflu.

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer sent a letter to Roche, asking it to work with other companies to expand production. The U.S. only has enough Tamiflu to protect 1 percent of population, the Democratic lawmaker from New York said. Indian drugmaker Cipla Ltd. has said it plans to make a generic version of the drug.

``Countries all over the world have placed many more orders for Tamiflu than Roche can fill with its current manufacturing capacity,'' Schumer said in the letter. ``In the interest of the public health, I urge you to voluntarily suspend your patent so that other companies can assist you in filling these orders.''

Another article from Bloomberg points out that Roche is having other problems - namely with retaining the rights to Tamiflu that it has secured from Gilead Sciences:

Roche said earlier this month it's now in arbitration with Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. over the rights to Tamiflu. Gilead gave a termination notice June 23, alleging ``material breach'' of a development agreement signed in 1996, and demanded the return of the rights to Tamiflu.


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