British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline is set to announce it would be able to produce millions of doses of a vaccine against avian (bird) flu, within four months of declaration of a pandemic. A vaccine could not be produced any sooner because scientists would need to know the exact strain of the flu before formulating an inoculation.
The firm will make the announcement on Thursday when it presents its quarterly results, a report in the U.K.'s Sunday Times said.
Plans to purchase enough vaccine to cover every person in the U.K. have been set in motion -- 120 million doses, or two doses for each person there -- in the event of a flu pandemic.
Meanwhile, the FDA has announced the formation of a rapid response team to ensure that enough legitimate antiviral drugs are available to the American public, in the event of an avian flu pandemic.
"Using the rapid response team approach, we believe we could review a complete drug application in six to eight weeks," said Andrew von Eschenbach, acting FDA commissioner.
The team was also formed to help combat the counterfeiting of bird flu-fighting drugs, including Roche's Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate).
"We have begun to have some concern that there may be a threat of counterfeiting with respect to Tamiflu," Health and Human Services secretary Michael Leavitt told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Tamiflu, and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza (zanamivir) are known to work against the virus. And there is evidence that another older influenza drug called rimantadine may also work. None of the treatments cure influenza. However, they may be prescribed to reduce the impact of the virus.