Novartis says that it plans to increase the amount of Fluvirin influenza vaccine that it produces for the US market for the 2007-2008 flu season to 40 million doses.

That total represents a 30% increase on the previous flu season and the Swiss drugmaker noted that it will deliver 20 million of the total doses by the end of September. The other 20 million will be delivered by the end of October and Rajiv De Silva, president of Novartis Vaccines in the USA, said that the early availability of the jab “will enable healthcare providers to open additional clinics early in the season, a period when vaccination is most often requested".

Novartis noted that flu causes more than 200,000 hospitalisations and kills about 36,000 people each year in the USA. Annual medical expenses from influenza range from $3-$5 billion in the USA, while indirect costs, including lost work days, of a severe flu epidemic can range from $12-$14 billion.

First generic versions of Lamisil approved

On the negative side for Novartis, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first generics of its antifungal agent Lamisil (terbinafine). The agency mentioned 14 different firms who can sell copycat versions and all the usual names are on the list, including Dr Reddy's, Mylan, Teva and Watson, as well as Gedeon Richter, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Roxane Labs and Wockhardt.

The FDA said it also approved the first generic version of over-the-counter Lamisil cream for athlete's foot, to be manufactured by Taro Pharmaceuticals Industries. US sales of Lamisil last year came in at $574 million so the arrival of generics is going to hurt Novartis earnings