Vietnam will produce the anti-viral drug branded Tamiflu some time this quarter if it encounters a bird flu pandemic which might kill over 0.8 million Vietnamese patients, local newspaper Pioneer on Friday quoted a health official as saying.
"We're negotiating with Roche (about getting permission from the Swiss pharmaceutical producer to make a version of Tamiflu). However, if the pandemic occurs, Vietnam will apply an emergency regulation on producing Tamiflu. That means we have the rights to do it in emergency case without the prior approval of Roche," said Cao Minh Quang, director of the Drug Management Department under the Vietnamese Health Ministry.
Three Vietnamese pharmaceutical companies located in southern, northern and central regions will turn out Tamiflu medicines whose quality is equal to that of Roche products, Quang said.
"If Roche doesn't supply us with materials for Tamiflu production, we'll seek other ways of having them," he noted.
Vietnam now has nearly 600,000 Tamiflu capsules and 2 million bottles of Tamiflu liquids, which are insufficient to treat a large number of bird flu patients in case of pandemic, he said, noting that the World Health Organization warned that 10 percent of the country's 82-million population could contract bird flu, and 1 percent of the population would die of the disease if the pandemic happened.
Up to 91 Vietnamese people have been infected with bird flu since the disease started to break out in the country in late 2003. Of them 41 have died, the ministry said.
The department has proposed that Vietnam ensure reserves of some 25 million Tamiflu capsules, or 30 percent of the amount needed to treat 8.2 million bird flu patients, he said, adding that 60 percent of the drug reserves should be met by imports, and 40 percent by locally-produced sources.
Fearing a coming pandemic and potential limited supply of Roche, many countries have rushed to stockpile Tamiflu, one of the few pharmaceuticals effective for bird flu treatment. Last week, the Swiss firm said it was ready to share Tamiflu production with its rivals, but ruled out relinquishing the patent for the anti-viral drug which takes effect until 2015.