Roche has been forced to suspend sales of its influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in Canada because panic buying of the drug is threatening to deplete reserves even before the start of the flu season.

Burgeoning demand for Tamiflu has been sparked by international fears that a flu pandemic that could kill millions around the world is on the way [[10/10/05d]]. The Swiss drugmaker now says that it will suspend distribution to allow its inventory to build up, and when it resumes will give priority to high-risk facilities, such as hospitals and long-term care facilities, according to Canadian press reports.

It is not yet clear whether similar measures will be applied elsewhere in the world, although Roche has said its actions in Canada are in line with company-wide policy.

Roche has been racing to ramp up production capacity for Tamiflu in order to meet orders from national governments trying to lay in emergency supplies of the drug to help cope with a flu pandemic, as well as soaring demand through pharmacies and other outlets caused by individual stockpiling [[13/10/05b]].

Last week, facing international calls for compulsory licensing of Tamiflu, Roche agreed to outsource production of Tamiflu to generic manufacturers [[21/10/05a]].