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Roche has announcedthat it has struck a deal forAspen, the South Africangenerics drug company, toproduce a generic versionof oseltamivir (Tamiflu) forthe African subcontinent.The deal is the Swiss company's firstagreement with an African firm to producethe antiviral drug to boost supply inpreparation for a bird flu pandemic.Under the terms of the nonexclusiveagreement, Roche will provide its technicalknow-how to Aspen to help it hastenits production of oseltamivir and supplythe company with the active pharmaceuticalingredient to make the drug.

Roche has come under pressure fromgovernments and generic manufacturersthat have raised the possibility of a challengeto its patent on oseltamivir. Rochehas already agreed to 15 alliances withoutside subcontractors to help boost productionof the drug to 400 million treatmentsby the end of 2006. On its own, thecompany had been planning to dramaticallyscale up production to 300 million treatmentsby the end of next year.

David Reddy, Roche's Pandemic Taskforceleader, stated, "We are pleased to announcethe partnership with Aspen asthe latest step in our scale-up efforts tomeet the needs of governments inpreparing for the potential public healththreat posed by avian influenza. This isanother demonstration of Roche's commitmentto working as a collaborativeand responsible partner with governmentsand the World Health Organizationto assist in pandemic planning."

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