Roche has granted a sub-license to the Indian company Hetero Drugs for the production of its influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), to help speed up and increase supplies of the medicine in advance of a potential flu pandemic.

This is the second sub-license signed by the Swiss drugmaker to boost production. Last week, Roche signed an outsourcing deal with Chinese company, Shanghai Pharma, to supply Tamiflu for the domestic Chinese market.

Roche said the agreement with Hetero is focused on providing oseltamivir for government pandemic use and will have an immediate effect on the availability in India and developing countries - both directly and through further agreements with local companies.

Hetero has committed to delivering one million capsules of oseltamivir to the Indian government by January 15, and said it will start fulfilling orders for least developed and developing countries in the same month.

The company said it remains on schedule to meet the current orders received from over 50 governments, but Hetero’s supply will improve distribution of oseltamivir in some of the world's poorest countries, resulting in earlier than anticipated delivery timelines and more capacity for further orders.

“Hetero is the first company that was identified to be able to speed up agreed delivery timelines in the first half of 2006,” said Roche in a statement. The Indian company recently received approval to manufacture the medicine after a two-and-a-half year development programme.