Roche has responded to recent criticism that it was protecting its avian-flu formula too closely by identifying 12 prospective partners to increase the global production of Tamiflu.
Worldwide demand for the vaccine has increased ten fold after concerns over growing cases of avian flu and the possibility of a flu pandemic. This has led to more people than usual seeking vaccination against seasonal flu, even though this would not protect against a pandemic strain.
Roche, one of a number of vaccine manufacturers contracted to supply various governments with flu vaccines, has identified a list of 12 potential partners from an original shortlist of around 200 third parties interested in Roche's Global Tamiflu Supply Network.
Roche also revealed that it planned to grant a sub-license for China to Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group. The sub-licensing for the production of oseltamivir for pandemic use in China becomes the first one for the country, a move that extends Roche's vaccine presence in the Asian market.
In light of the Avian Flu outbreak in South East Asia, Roche's presence has not been more essential. Roche said that in countries such as Vietnam, Roche would provide capsules or active pharmaceutical ingredient for third parties to encapsulate locally.
The pharmaceutical company also identified India where it would be delivering 100,000 treatment courses of Tamiflu ordered by the Indian Government and where negotiations about a local sub-license are ongoing with local manufacturers.
In Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, Tamiflu is not patent protected and these governments are free to purchase or manufacture oseltamivir at their discretion.
"As yet we have not identified anyone who could significantly speed up the agreed delivery timelines for the first half of 2006, but we have been able to identify partners to insure against breakdowns in supply and partners to broaden geographic coverage," commented William Burns, CEO Roche Pharma Division.
"Based on the current orders we have received from governments around the world our capacity to produce 300 million treatments by 2007 are significantly ahead of demand."
Roche has also pledged to donate 3 million treatments to the WHO as a rapid response stockpile for use at the epicentre of a pandemic. According to experts, this could contain or slow down the spread of a potential pandemic at the source of the outbreak, if delivered rapidly.
"The supply chain now being put in place exceeds our current orders from World Governments. During 2006 our supply chain will grow dramatically reaching an annualised 300 million plus treatments by the start of 2007," said David Reddy, Roche Pandemic Task Force Leader.
"We are now also in the position to have a back-up supply in case of an emergency and specific geographic coverage has also been enhanced with suppliers in Europe, the Americas and Asia," he added.