India to Stock 3 mn Doses of Tamiflu
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30 April 2009
Kounteya Sinha & Rupali Mukherjee
New Delhi, India
Even as the deadly H1N1 swine flu virus claimed its first victim outside Mexico (in Texas) on Wednesday and Germany became the latest country to report an infection, India started gearing up to have the capacity to protect 30 lakh people in case of a swine flu outbreak.
The health ministry decided to stockpile three million doses of Tamiflu, the only known drug found to be effective against the virus, as a precautionary measure.
Officials told TOI that the stock was meant for those involved in the first line of containment – doctors, nurses and immigration officers and those who get infected during an outbreak. To begin with, the government on Tuesday night sent a rate query to the four known Indian generic drug makers to build a stockpile of one million doses of the drug to start with.
“The additional one million would add to the government’s existing stockpile of one million doses of the drug. Ultimately, we intend to have three million doses of the drug,” a health ministry official said.
“These drugs have a shelf line of five years. We also have an agreement with Indian generic drug makers to supply us one million doses of the drug within seven days, if an outbreak occurs,” the official said. Domestic pharma companies including Cipla, Ranbaxy, Roche and Hetero Drugs said they would be able to supply oseltamavir (the main ingredient of Tamiflu) to the government.
Cipla joint managing director Amar Lulla said, “We have heard about the government’s plans to procure oseltamavir through a tender, and will be participating in it. We are ready to supply the drug.”
Hetero Drugs director marketing M Srinivas Reddy said, “We can supply the entire government’s requirement of one million doses. Through our disaster management efforts, we can ensure a monthly capacity of 80 million capsules.”
Ranbaxy president Ramesh Adige said, “Ranbaxy produces oseltamavir active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and formulations and can commence supplies at fairly short notice. Ranbaxy will be pleased to supply Oseltamavir, to meet urgent requirements of countries, to tide over the crisis.” Companies like Cipla, Ranbaxy and Hetero Drugs have developed generic and thus more affordable versions of Tamiflu, the bird flu drug which has been found to be equally effective against the H1N1 swine flu virus.
Sources said that the companies would have to fulfil the criteria of the drug’s shelf life and establish its efficacy, besides quoting the (lowest) price.
The efficacy issue would be particularly important for generic companies like Cipla, Hetero and Ranbaxy who would have to submit clinical data supporting the efficacy and safety claims.