Swiss flu medicine firm sees stock rise on back of outbreak

Geneva, April 27 (Inditop) Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, maker of influenza medication Tamiflu, saw its stock price rise 3.8 percent in early trading Monday on the Zurich exchange on the back of the global swine flu outbreak.

During the avian flu epidemic the drug was used heavily, particularly in South Asia.

Shares in Roche were trading at close to 145 Swiss francs ($126), up over five francs since the opening.

Martina Rupp, a spokeswoman for Roche, said Tamiflu was deemed to be effective against the swine variant.

“Tamiflu can always be used,” she explained, noting that as an antiviral, unlike vaccines, it did not need to be adjusted to specific strains of flu.

The research department at Roche was however looking into dosing schemes, checking to see “how much and for how long”, meaning how many pills should be taken and over what period, to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Rupp said Roche had donated in recent years five million doses of Tamiflu to the World Health Organisation.

Of these, 2 million were distributed “to stockpiles in countries not yet well prepared” in the developing world. From the remaining doses, the company had 1.5 million doses in Switzerland and an identical amount in the US on standby as a “fire-blanket”, to be distributed if needed in case of a pandemic.

“We are waiting for WHO to ask us to deploy,” Rupp said, noting that the company had the capacity to ramp up production if that was requested by the international organisation. She added that in 2005, the full production capacity was never used.

The WHO was preparing for the second meeting of its International Health Regulation Committee Tuesday, after having convened one session over the weekend.

A World Health Organisation official Sunday said that the world was better prepared for the current situation of swine flu, owing to steps taken by governments during the avian outbreak, including the stockpiling of needed drugs.