GSK and other firms offer Bush help to fight avian flu pandemic

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GlaxoSmithKline said it plans to double its vaccine production and other drug makers have offered their help during a meeting with President Bush last week as part of the administration's latest effort in preparing for the possibility of an avian flu pandemic.
GSK said it plans to double its annual flu vaccine production of 35 million doses in the coming years, according to a report from CNN/Money's Web site. GSK recently stepped up its flu manufacturing capacity by investing an additional $2 billion and ramping up production of antiviral vaccine Relenza.
"We have been working with the U.S. government, as well as governments and health authorities around the world, to outline our antiviral and flu vaccine capabilities, and identify how they fit into preparations for pandemic flu," GSK chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier told reporters after a Friday meeting with President Bush.
Bush also met with Merck chief executive Richard Clark, Wyeth chief executive Robert Essner, MedImmune chief executive David Mott, Chiron chief executive Howard Pien and David Williams senior vice president of vaccines at Sanofi-Aventis subsidiary Aventis Pasteur.
Ian Spatz, vice president of public policy for Merck, told CNN/Money that Clark pledged to help Bush, even though the company does not produce the flu vaccine. Spatz said Merck would help to package the bulk vaccine, produced by another company, into a form that could be injected into patients.
And Wyeth spokesperson Doug Petkus said his company was prepared to answer the needs of the government in any way it could despite the fact that it does not make the flu vaccine. Petkus said Wyeth demonstrated this following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when the company produced 10 million doses of smallpox vaccine at the government's request.

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