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WHO calls meet with Asian drug firms on bird flu

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To discuss the companies' preparedness in the event of a pandemic

CHICKENS IN a poultry farm.
CHICKENS IN a poultry farm.

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Being prepared


Health Ministry

officials from India and representatives from other countries would present their plans to tackle the avian-flu.

Drug companies

will then be able to understand the requirement of the different countries and vice-versa.

WHO will

only facilitate the interface between the buyer and seller.

Mumbai, March 24

As South-East Asian countries report cases of bird-flu jumping species and infecting humans, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for a meeting on the "pandemic preparedness" in this region.

The meeting scheduled to be held in Delhi later this month will bring together health representatives from India, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh, along with drug companies from these countries to discuss their preparedness in the event of a pandemic, a WHO official told

Business Line

.

Stock piling Oseltamivir, the drug recommended for the treatment of bird-flu, is just one component of the preparedness plan.

As part of the over-all state of preparedness, the regional production capacity of Oseltamivir is on the agenda for discussion, the official confirmed. However, it is unclear whether Roche, the Swiss-company that markets Oseltamivir globally under the brand name Tamiflu, will be at this meeting.

But Indian drug majors such as Cipla, Ranbaxy and Natco, Bangladesh's Beximco and other drug companies from Indonesia and Thailand are expected to participate. Hetero, the only Indian company to have a sub-licence from Roche to make and market Oseltamivir, has also been invited, the official said.

The Roche Managing Director in India, Dr G.L. Telang, confirmed that they have been invited to the meeting. But he was unwilling to divulge whether they would participate in the meeting. A WHO official familiar with the meeting, however, indicated that Roche was unlikely to participate.

At the meeting, Health Ministry officials from India and representatives from other countries would present their plans to tackle the avian-flu.

Drug companies will then be able to understand the requirement of the different countries and vice-versa, the official said.

Currently, drug companies in India, for instance, are executing export orders from neighbouring countries in their individual capacities.

WHO will not get involved with the procurement and will only facilitate the interface between the buyer and seller, the official clarified.

According to WHO, among the human cases that have been reported, most of them are in Asia.

In the South-East Asian region alone, Indonesia has reported 27 confirmed human cases of avian influenza, with 20 deaths and Thailand has had 22 confirmed human cases of avian influenza since December 2003, according to WHO.

India has not reported any human case of the disease till date.

Related Stories:
Hetero to sell bird-flu drug to Indonesia, Bangladesh
Patient vs Patent debate: Move on Tamiflu to set the trend
Ranbaxy exporting Tamiflu

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 25, 2006)
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