According to local media reports, Chugai Pharmaceutical, the Japanese subsidiary of Swiss drug major Roche, is currently considering manufacturing the flu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) to help bolster Japan’s stockpile, at the request of the country’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry.

Chugai distributes Tamiflu but does not manufacture it in Japan, and so the group may start production in order to meet rising demand for the medicine in the region and ensure a steady supply.

Tamiflu is cleared to treat and prevent flu in adults and children over the age of one and, although it has not been licensed to treat avian flu, the agent has demonstrated activity against the virus deemed responsible, H5N1.

The drug is being stockpiled globally to help prepare against a potential pandemic of avian flu, under the advice of the World Health Organisation. Last November, the Japanese government unveiled its plan to boost its Tamiflu stockpile by around 70%, to offer protection to 25 million people should an outbreak occur.