The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday it would begin sending 2.4 million treatment courses of Tamiflu, an antiviral proven effective against the new flu, to 72 countries deemed in need, including Mexico.
The Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG donated the stockpiles to the United Nations agency several years ago for use in a possible influenza pandemic. "The WHO is dispatching 2.4 million courses of antivirals to 72 countries most in need, including Mexico," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing in Geneva. "Part of the stock will be dispatched on Tuesday," she added.
Shipments will be made from "three hubs" -- Switzerland, Maryland, in the United States, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, she said.
The WHO will also supplement its regional stockpiles in its six regions for "contingency" use in countries which may see outbreaks of the new H1N1 virus, according to Chaib.
Roche said on Saturday that the WHO had asked it to deploy its so-called rapid response stockpiles and that it was also increasing production to meet rising demand.
GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second largest drugmaker, said last Friday it was also increasing production of Relenza, a flu drug which must be inhaled.
Tamiflu and Relenza, both known generically as oseltamivir, are the only two approved drugs to which the new strain of influenza A has been found to be susceptible.