A major Indian drug company announced yesterday that it would begin making a generic version of Tamiflu in the face of a possible epidemic of avian flu, The New York Times reported today.
"Right or wrong, we're going to commercialize and make oseltamivir," Yusuf Hamied, chairman of the generic drug manufacturer Cipla of Bombay told the newspaper.
Although generic manufacturers can't legally sell the patented Tamiflu in the West, all national patent laws, including those of the U.S., allow governments to cancel patents during emergencies and either buy generics or force patent holders to license their formulas to rivals.
Tamiflu maker Roche has been under growing pressure from several countries and the United Nations' secretary general to license generic versions of the drug, which eases the worst symptoms of the flu.
Roche sells Tamiflu for $60 per treatment in the U.S. The company said yesterday that it fully intends to remain the sole manufacturer of Tamiflu.
Hamied said Cipla, India's third largest drug maker, would sell generic Tamiflu "at a humanitarian price," in developing nations and not aim at the American or European markets. Cipla's inexpensive HIV drugs, approved by the World Health Organization, are used by 400,000 people worldwide.
Meanwhile, Australia's National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee announced yesterday that it had decided against a proposal to allow for over-the-counter sales of Tamiflu in that country.
"The decision . . . means that there will be less Tamiflu stock in Australia, denying the public access to a clinically proven and effective medication," Roche said in a statement.