Swiss drugmaker Roche will meet with four generics companies next week who could be granted a license to make its influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in order to meet burgeoning international demand caused by fears of a flu pandemic.

Roche has already undertaken a major investment programme to boost its in-house capacity for making Tamiflu and had insisted it was not to be licensed [[13/10/05b]]. However, earlier this week the company did an abrupt volte face in the face of international pressure to boost production of the drug - considered the most effective treatment for people contracting pandemic flu virus - by allowing third parties to make it [[18/10/05a]].

The meetings, brokered by US Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham, will take place with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Mylan Laboratories, Barr Pharmaceuticals and Ranbaxy Laboratories. The senators made the announcement after meeting yesterday with George Abercrombie, head of Roche Pharmaceuticals in the


“Roche has agreed to sub-license the production of Tamiflu to any of these companies that can produce it in quantities large enough to help meet the anticipated demand in case of a flu outbreak,” said Sen Schumer in a statement.

He said he expects Roche to continue working with these companies “until the bottleneck of supply for government stockpiling purposes has been relieved, at which point they may regain their status as sole manufacturer.”

Roche has already said it plans to boost its Tamiflu production capacity 8 to 10-fold [[13/10/05b]] after receiving orders from 40 countries aiming to include the drug in their pandemic preparedness plans.