NEW DELHI: Indian Pharmaceutical company Cipla has offered to manufacture an antiviral drug for bird flu called Zanamivir (Relenza) that is currently being manufactured by Glaxo Smithkline. It has already made Tamiflu in its lab.
The drug has not been as well known and popular as Tamiflu has but is cheaper and sometimes a better alternative to Tamiflu. Dr Y K Hameid, CEO of Cipla in a press release said:''Zanamivir is the only other drug besides Tamiflu that can be effective in human avian flu. While we have made Tamiflu in our laboratories we are trying to make zanamivir also.'' Zanamivir is an old drug manufactured before 1995 hence there are no patent issues involved with it manufacture. ''We can manufacture it once we formulate it in our laboratories,'' added Dr Hameid.
The patent for Tamiflu is pending in India and the government is yet to decide on how to make the drug in the country. The government's dilemma is whether to import Tamiflu in large quantities from Roche or to license a domestic generic manufacturer to make it here at a tenth of the price and stock it. The raw material for Tamiflu - shikimic acid is currently selling at $1,000 a kilo from the usual $40 a kilo due to the huge demand in the world market for Tamiflu. "Today price is the issue and tomorrow availability will be the issue,'' added Mr. Shah.
D.G.Shah, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) said: "If it decides to import the drug from Roche, it has to place the order as there is a limited supply. If it decides to allow generic makers here to make it, it has to issue a Compulsory license (CL).'' It must be noted that under Sec. 92 of the Indian Patents Act 2005, the Government can issue a compulsory license as in the case of a national emergency.
"We have already got in touch with Glaxo and are planning to stockpile the drug,'' said Dr Ashwani Kumar, Drug Controller General of India. India has already ordered one hundred thousand doses of Tamiflu from Roche to combat any emergency outbreak of bird flu.
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