Hyderabad drug firm claims it can increase production of swine flu drug

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Hyderabad, May 2 (ANI): An Indian pharmaceutical company in Hyderabad claims that it can revamp the production of antiviral drugs, which can tackle the swine flu drug as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of an imminent pandemic.

Hyderabad-based Hetero Drugs, the only supplier in India licensed by Swiss-based Roche, could ramp up production to reach monthly capacity of about 80 million doses of 'Oseltamivir or Fluvir', used to treat swine flu cases, within weeks.

Hetero is an Indian company with a sub-license from Roche to manufacture Tamiflu.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sounded an emergency after the report of first death from outside Mexico, where it killed 149 people and is now reported to have spread to so far as New Zealand.

Since avian flu caught the world off guard in 2003, Swiss drug maker Roche has authorised drug companies in developing countries to manufacture an inexpensive generic form of its Tamiflu drug, called 'Oseltamivir or Fluvir'.

Hetero is the only producer licensed by Roche for the generic drug in India.

"This particular drug, we supplied more than about 50 million capsules here in 2006. At that time, we supplied about close to one million capsules to the Government of India. We are also committed to our government that whenever there is any kind of such situation arises, we are in a position to supply," said B P Srinivas Reddy, Chairman and Managing Director, Hetero Drugs Limited.

Reddy further added that the Central Government asked them for the drug and the government may stockpile about 10 million doses of the drug to deal with any outbreak.

"Again last week, the Government of India contacted us and we have given assurance that we are going to supply. Yesterday, there was an enquiry that they may stockpile about ten million doses. We said we are ready to supply and cooperate," said Reddy.

The company is licensed to export to about 100 developing countries. The fears of swine flu having reached India were dispelled by the WHO, which said the country has not reported any swine flu case and was prepared to handle a possible outbreak.

Reddy also said that there is no need to worry about the spread of virus in the country, as the virus exists in places where the average temperature is less than 32 degrees.

"As far as our country is concerned, nothing to worry because this particular virus, which is causing the disease can exist only less than 32 degrees," added Reddy.

Hetero supplied 200 million doses of the drug in the last three years to India and other countries, Reddy said, further adding that inquiries about the supplies are pouring in from countries like Latin America, South-East Asia and Middle East.

While there is no vaccine for the swine flu, the generic drugs have been proved to be effective.

The Central Government has stepped up surveillance across international airports and ports to check for any swine flu symptoms. The recently discovered disease (swine fever) is caused by the H1N1 virus type through the mutation of flu that infects swine, human as well as avian population. (ANI)

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