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Roche to Sell Tamiflu to Developing Countries at Lower Prices
  By Dermot Doherty and Jason Gale
July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG said it will produce, store and sell stockpiles of its Tamiflu antiviral medicine at a reduced price for use by developing countries during a flu pandemic.
The Tamiflu Reserves Program is aimed at improving access to the treatment in developing countries and takes effect immediately, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. The program would also be used in the case of a new influenza strain that has pandemic potential.
"Only six of the world's countries listed as low income have a stockpile of Tamiflu," David Reddy, the head of Roche's influenza task force, said in the statement. That represents coverage of 0.02 percent for low income countries, he said.
World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said in May she would ask Roche for more supplies of Tamiflu to help developing countries combat swine flu. More than 70,000 cases of the virus, also known as H1N1, have been confirmed globally, according to the WHO. Tamiflu can help reduce the severity and duration of swine flu.
The Swiss drugmaker will charge as little as 2 euros ($2.81) for a 30 milligram-dose package of 10 pills and as much as 6 euros for each 75 milligram-dose package. The price will depend on the period of storage requested, the company said. Until now, prices have ranged from 4.80 euros for the lowest dose to 12 euros for the highest in such countries.
Chan said in May the virus may cause worse complications in poor nations whose health systems are overwhelmed by diseases such as HIV. Almost half of the patients hospitalized with swine flu have also had other illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma, according to the WHO.
Roche said June 29 that a swine flu patient treated with Tamiflu in Denmark showed resistance to the drug for the first time, though it noted that the virus remains sensitive to the treatment. Studies of Tamiflu have shown that 0.4 percent of adults and 4 percent of children with seasonal influenza develop resistance, according to Roche.
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