Vietnam, which has recently synthesized an active agent of bird flu medicine Tamiflu from anise, is expected to produce such kind of drugs in the first or second quarter of 2007, local media reported Tuesday.
Vietnam's Chemistry Institute has turned out 2.5 grams of Oseltamivir phosphate out of star anise, an aromatic Asian evergreen tree that has purple-red flowers and star-like clusters of anise-scented fruit, Pioneer newspaper said.
The institute's scientists have found out a process of extracting shikimic acid, a key material to synthesize Oseltamivir phosphate, from anise fruit. One gram of Oseltamivir phosphate is made from some 2 grams of shikimic acid, the report said.
With the process, prices of made-in-Vietnam Tamiflu medicines are similar to those of imported ones.
Vietnam's Health Ministry announced late 2005 that it had inked a deal with Roche, Swiss producer of Tamiflu, under which the firm would 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.
A total of 177 human cases of bird flu infections, including 98 fatalities, have been confirmed in seven countries, namely Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Cambodia and Turkey, since 2003, according to a statement of the World Health Organization posted on its website on March 13. Vietnam has been the hardest-hit country with 42 deaths from bird flu so far.
The northern province of Lang Son with over 8,000 hectares of star anise, the biggest anise-growing area in Vietnam, annually produces 5,000-6,000 tons of the dried fruit.
Now, the country uses anise as a spice or extracts oil from it for production of traditional medicines and export.
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 cuisine, and widely used to flavor liqueurs and baked goods in Western cultures.