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Anti-virals next week

DRUG COMPANIES have speeded up the launch of anti-virals to fight bird flu in the country. Cipla will be the first to launch its generic bird-flu drug in Maharashtra. Cipla chairman Y.K. Hamied said the drug (cost: Rs 1,000 per strip of 10 tablets) would be available in stores ?early next week?. The drug should be taken orally in a 5-day course, two tablets a day.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 00:53 IST

DRUG COMPANIES have speeded up the launch of anti-virals to fight bird flu in the country.

Cipla will be the first to launch its generic bird-flu drug in Maharashtra. Cipla chairman Y.K. Hamied said the drug (cost: Rs 1,000 per strip of 10 tablets) would be available in stores “early next week”. The drug should be taken orally in a 5-day course, two tablets a day.

The only anti-virals that work against bird flu are oseltamavir and zanamavir, which are being manufactured in India by Ranbaxy, Cipla and Hetero.

Ranbaxy too said it would be in the market with its drug soon. “We’ve got the active pharmaceutical ingredient for oseltamavir almost ready,” said Ranbaxy’s Ramesh Adige.

There currently is no commercially available vaccine to protect humans against H5N1 virus.

Roche India, the subsidiary of Roche, which holds manufacturing and marketing rights for Tamiflu (oseltamavir), the best-known drug for bird flu, said it is not selling the drug across the counter right now as it may lead to stockpiling.

The company is only selling the drugs to the WHO and governments. Roche has given Hetero the licence to manufacture the drug in India.

Industry observers say the real issue lies in educating doctors about the possible side effects of the drug. Since it is an epidemic drug, patients should consult a doctor before using it. “The real issue is to educate the doctors and patients in the small towns,” said Hamied. He said Cipla expected the government to buy the drug, which could eliminate the pricing issue.

First Published: Feb 19, 2006 00:53 IST