Published Online: Thursday, June 1, 2006

Roche has announced that it has struck a deal for Aspen, the South African generics drug company, to produce a generic version of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for the African subcontinent. The deal is the Swiss company's first agreement with an African firm to produce the antiviral drug to boost supply in preparation for a bird flu pandemic. Under the terms of the nonexclusive agreement, Roche will provide its technical know-how to Aspen to help it hasten its production of oseltamivir and supply the company with the active pharmaceutical ingredient to make the drug.

Roche has come under pressure from governments and generic manufacturers that have raised the possibility of a challenge to its patent on oseltamivir. Roche has already agreed to 15 alliances with outside subcontractors to help boost production of the drug to 400 million treatments by the end of 2006. On its own, the company had been planning to dramatically scale up production to 300 million treatments by the end of next year.

David Reddy, Roche's Pandemic Taskforce leader, stated, "We are pleased to announce the partnership with Aspen as the latest step in our scale-up efforts to meet the needs of governments in preparing for the potential public health threat posed by avian influenza. This is another demonstration of Roche's commitment to working as a collaborative and responsible partner with governments and the World Health Organization to assist in pandemic planning."

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