Over the last 30 days, Hetero Healthcare Ltd has been receiving calls from State governments, almost every alternate day, placing orders for Oseltamivir, the antiviral medication to treat swine flu.

Even at the district headquarters, States are stocking up on the drug, Srinivas Reddy, Director (Marketing) with Hetero, told BusinessLine . The development comes even as the death toll from swine flu crosses 900, with over 16,000 people infected.

Hetero said it has also launched a round-the-clock dedicated helpline (9320985813) for patients and others requiring details on the medicine and where it is sold.

Meeting local need Oseltamivir is sold globally as Tamiflu by Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. And Hetero is Roche’s only licensee in India. The company has increased production capacity of the drug by 400 per cent. From the present capacity of five lakh capsules it has been raised to 20 lakh capsules, Reddy said.

Hetero fulfils the entire local demand, he said, adding that as part of the initial agreement with Roche, it had maintained a minimum inventory ever since the earlier outbreak of swine flu in 2009. “Over the last two years, we had written off ₹6 crore worth of (expired) stock,” he added.

Restricted distribution The active pharmaceutical ingredient going into the medicine is made at its Vizag plant, while the finished form is made at its Baddi (Himachal Pradesh) plant.

While the drug is slotted as a Schedule-X medicine, under restricted distribution, the Government has allowed more chemists to sell the medicine. Fluvir, Hetero’s brand of Oseltamivir, is priced at less than ₹1,000 for a 10-day course, Reddy said.

Hetero pays a 5 per cent royalty on revenues to Roche and, depending on the requirement overseas, it could sell to other developing markets, Reddy said.

Meanwhile, Roche had earlier told BusinessLine that it was not importing or marketing Oseltamivir /Tamiflu and did not hold any inventory of the product in India.

However, Roche had indicated this could change if the on-ground situation worsened.

Other generic drugmakers like Cipla have also supplied its version of Oseltamivir to affected States such as Gujarat and Rajasthan, a company spokesperson said.

jyothi.datta@thehindu.co.in

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