Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why Roche Released Tamiflu

From TIME:
A day after Roche reversed course under pressure and announced it is willing to enter discussions with countries and companies interested in licensing rights to produce its flu drug Tamiflu came the reminder of why the Swiss pharmaceutical giant had for so long been so reluctant to make the move. Roche announced Wednesday that its revenues climbed 17% in the third quarter, boosted in large part by world-wide demand for Tamiflu. Sales of the drug more than doubled, to $215 million in the quarter. Roche expects to rake in as much as $925 million from Tamiflu sales this year, up from $266 million in 2004. And as governments keep building their stockpiles, it will continue to generate billion-dollar revenues for the next couple of years, according to Keith Redpath, head of Wood Mackenzie Life Sciences Research.

Why the sudden about-face? Roche probably had no choice. Most countries, including the U.S., have in their laws a provision that permits their governments to overturn patents in exceptional circumstances. "If Roche plays hardball," says Redpath, "governments could just say, 'we're going to overturn the patent. This is a national emergency.'" Such moves would not be unprecedented. After anthrax mailings following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks stoked biosecurity concerns, the Canadian and the U.S. government told the German drug firm Bayer that if it did not ramp up production and sell its anti-infective Cipro at a reasonable cost, they would do so themselves. Bayer wound up cutting its prices by 55% and boosted production...
Technorati Tags: Tamiflu, Roche, Avian Flu, Avian Influenza

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