Roche says it has identified outsourcing partners to make its influenza treatment Tamiflu that should enable it to push production beyond its in-house capacity of 300 million courses a year by 2007.

The Swiss company has identified 12 companies that could boost its production network for Tamiflu (oseltamivir), regarded as the drug of choice to treat people suffering from pandemic strains of flu, and has also granted a sub-license to China’s Shanghai Pharmaceutical to manufacture the drug. In-depth negotiations will now begin with the 12 short-listed candidates.

But none of the 200 companies appraised by Roche have been able to bring Tamiflu production on-line quickly enough to boost production capacity in the first-half of 2006, and Roche maintains that its own capacity will be more than sufficient to meet demand based on current government orders for the drug.

Roche Pharma chief executive William Burns said: “our capacity to produce 300 million treatments by 2007 is significantly ahead of demand.”

The sub-license with Shanghai Pharma gives the company the right to produce and supply Tamiflu for its domestic market only. Roche said it is in negotiations with other companies for local sub-licensing agreements, including in India.

Although Roche did not name the short-listed companies, US Senator Charles Schumer said last week they included generic drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Mylan Laboratories.