Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said Friday it has granted a sublicense to an Indian pharmaceutical maker to produce the antiviral drug Tamiflu. The deal allows Hetero Drugs to produce a generic version of Tamiflu for developing countries seeking to stockpile the drug to prepare themselves in case of a flu pandemic, Roche said in a statement.
Tamiflu is considered the most efficient treatment in the event that the bird flu virus, which has killed at least 71 people in Asia since 2003, mutates so that it could pass easily between people.
"We are pleased to announce the partnership with Hetero Drugs as the latest step in our scale-up efforts to meet the needs of governments in preparing for the potential public health threat posed by avian influenza," said David Reddy, who heads Roche's influenza pandemic task force.
Roche owns the right to produce and supply Tamiflu, but it has come under increasing international pressure to ease its monopoly grip on the drug. The company has been pressed to step up production, cut prices and allow other companies to make copies of the drug. Earlier this month, Roche said it had chosen 12 potential partners for the production of Tamiflu and granted a sublicense to the China-based Shanghai Pharmaceutical to produce the drug to meet Chinese government orders, reports the AP. I.L.