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Bird Flu – Vaccines and Drugs

 

Laboratories throughout the world racing to develop vaccines against the H5N1 strain of bird flu face the problem that the virus is able to mutate, and it is difficult to predict which viral strain might emerge.

 

Two anti-viral drugs can help against the infection and may even prevent it if taken at the right time. The first is Tamiflu, invented by Gilead Sciences and manufactured by Switzerland’s Roche Holding, and known generically as oseltamivir. The other is Relenza, developed by Australia's Biota Holdings and marketed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It is known generically as zanamivir.

Tamiflu is manufactured from the star anise plant in a complicated process that can take one year. Roche has more than a dozen plants in several countries engaged in manufacture. It has expressed its desire to boost production, to meet fast-growing demand.

Pharmaceuticals companies in India and Taiwan have expressed their desire to launch generic Tamiflu production.


Relenza is made by GSK at a plant in France, and the company also plans to start production in Australia. GSK is being sued by Biota, which claims that GSK has not adequately promoted the drug.

 

Other companies are also actively engaged in research. Late in 2005 there were reports that four companies in particular had made significant progress in the development of new drugs. They are CSL of Australia, Sanofi Pasteur of France, Chiron of the US and GSK.

 

The WHO has recommended that countries stockpile sufficient quantities of anti-virals to treat 25% of their populations.