|http://www.sina.com.cn 2005/11/30 19:41 国际在线|
Thailand and the Philippines are free to begin making their own versions of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu in preparation for a bird flu pandemic, the medicine's maker Roche Holding AG said on Monday.
The pill, which governments are stockpiling as a precaution against a virulent outbreak of flu, does not have patent protection in either country, meaning that the Thai and Philippine governments are free to make their own versions.
The move follows a similar decision by Indonesia last week and could create a source of cheap Tamiflu for other developing countries who are unable to afford the Roche-branded drug.
"Tamiflu is not patent protected in these countries and so there is no question about granting a license or sub-licence (for production)," a Roche spokesman said.
There will be no financial consequences if the two southeast Asian countries begin their own production of the drug, he said.
Taiwan, where the drug has a patent, has said it would produce Tamiflu under compulsory license if its stocks run dry, surprising the Swiss firm which says it can meet demand.
The drug is protected in China and has a patent pending in India.
Roche maintains that Tamiflu is hard to produce, taking around a year since it requires a chain of different processes, some of which are dangerous.
The spokesman declined to comment on how close any of the three governments are to being able to produce Tamiflu domestically.
"It is not up to us to speculate about that. As a responsible company we remain willing to discuss with them whether we can contribute," the spokesman said.
Indonesia, which has confirmed 12 cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian flu virus, said on Saturday it would begin making the anti-viral drug in three to five months.
The country will likely appoint state-owned drugs companies to produce the treatment. Patents for the drug in major markets are held by the drug's inventor Gilead Sciences Inc, while Roche holds a development and licensing agreement.
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