In the face of worries about a potential flu pandemic that authorities believe could kill millions of people worldwide, Swiss pharmaceuticals group Roche is in talks with the World Health Organization to donate up to one million treatments of its antiviral drug Tamiflu for use in less developed countries, primarily in Asia where bird flu is showing signs of transmission to humans.
Roche has already given 120,000 treatments of Tamiflu to the WHO. The new talks come at a time when less developed nations have said they would be hardest hit by an outbreak of flu and would not be able to purchase does of the drug, which is currently the only antiviral that is notably effective against the flu.
The concern is to get the drug to locations where an outbreak of flu would be likely to start, so it could be stopped before it begins to spread more widely. Orders of the drug have doubled in two months, but have come mostly from developed nations. Roche has not commented on the retail price of Tamiflu, but government figures from the UK indicate a price of £13 ($24, €19) for a course of treatment with the drug.