- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

The maker of Tamiflu yesterday agreed to increase supplies of the flu drug and negotiate potential production deals with four manufacturers.

Hoffman-La Roche Inc., the Nutley, N.J., subsidiary of Swiss drug company F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd., agreed to meet with the companies to discuss licensing Tamiflu production to meet high demand for the drug.

Tamiflu, which is manufactured only by Roche, is considered to be the only viable drug treatment against a possible bird-flu pandemic.

“Roche has graciously stepped up to the plate, and has essentially agreed to share its technology and the rights to manufacture this drug with other companies who are willing to help out,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who has pressured Roche to license production of the drug to meet worldwide demand.

Sens. Schumer and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, met with Roche President and Chief Executive George Abercrombie yesterday to discuss licensing Tamiflu production.

“We discussed with them our previously announced intentions to meet with companies that may be able to assist in manufacturing additional supplies of Tamiflu,” Mr. Abercrombie said.

He would not say when Roche would meet with the other drug companies: Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., Barr Laboratories Inc., Mylan Laboratories Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd.

Roche’s representatives did not return calls for comment.

Earlier this week, Roche said it would build a new U.S. plant to increase Tamiflu production amid fears of a major bird-flu outbreak.

Roche also agreed to negotiate “equitable terms” with companies that can produce enough of the drug to meet government demand, Mr. Schumer said.

The federal government has about 2.3 million Tamiflu doses in storage and plans to have 2 million more by December, with the ultimate goal of stockpiling enough to treat 25 percent of the nation’s population, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Concern about the deadly strain of bird flu centers on scientists’ fears that it may mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, sparking a pandemic that might kill millions.

A 48-year-old Thai man became the 67th person known to have been killed by the bird-flu virus, officials said yesterday.

All the human deaths from avian flu so far have occurred in Asia, but the lethal virus was detected this month in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania.

In Brussels yesterday, the European Union adopted fresh measures to fight the virus, banning live birds from markets or exhibitions without permission.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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