Vietnam is probing into the possibility of making a key material for production of anti-bird flu medicine Tamiflu out of anise, a small tree grown in five of its localities, local newspaper Pioneer reported Tuesday.
The country's Health Ministry has recently worked with the Vietnam Pharmaceutical Materials Institute about the possibility of producing shikimic acid, the key material, from star anise, an aromatic Asian evergreen tree having purple-red flowers and star- like clusters of anise-scented fruit.
One hundred grams of anise fruit can turn out 5-10 grams of shikimic acid, or six grams of the fruit can make one Tamiflu capsule. Some 150 tons of anise fruit are enough to produce 25 million Tamiflu capsules, meeting Vietnam's demand for the medicine, said the report.
The ministry announced last month that it had inked a deal with Roche, Swiss producer of Tamiflu, under which the firm will supply Vietnam with necessary materials and techniques to manufacture the medicine in the country. Roche also agreed to supply Vietnam with 25 million Tamiflu capsules in case of bird flu pandemics.
The institute's director Nguyen Thuong Dong said his institute is capable of producing shikimic acid from star anise on a trial basis, but it needs huge investment and time to mass produce the material.
The northern province of Lang Son, home to over 8,000 hectares of star anise, annually produces 5,000-6,000 tons of the dried fruit. Now, Vietnam uses anise as a spice or extracts oil from it for export with a price of 10 US dollars per gram, while a gram of shikimic acid sells for 200-250 dollars, the report said.
Star anise fruit is a star-shaped, dark brown pod that contains a pea-sized seed in each of its eight segments. It is a commonly used spice and tea flavoring in Asian cuisines, and widely used to flavor liqueurs and baked goods in Western cultures.