Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Roche CEO says patents will not bar patients from getting Tamiflu

Franz Humer, CEO of Roche: "Patents will not stand in the way of producing the drug [Tamiflu] for mankind." One notes that the patent in question belongs to Gilead; Roche Holdings is the exclusive licensee. Gilead and Roche are having some discussions about the license agreement.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche saw its share price touch an all-time high yesterday as strong sales of its cancer treatments and bird flu drug, Tamiflu, boosted third-quarter revenues.
The day after the company said it would consider allowing other companies to produce Tamiflu to meet soaring demand, it announced group sales for the third quarter had risen by 20% to Sfr8.82bn (£3.9bn) from Sfr7.37bn for the same period last year.

The World Health Organisation fears that the bird flu virus could mutate into a form that could kill thousands and is recommending that governments stockpile drugs like Tamiflu. If the disease spreads among the population, it should be treated aggressively with drugs to reduce the number of deaths, says the WHO.

Professor Thomas G. Field wrote the
following text:

Since then, Tamiflu, patented and manufactured by the Swiss company, Roche Holding AG, has received much attention. Although manufacturing capacity has been doubled and redoubled within the past two years, Roche remains unable to cope with global demand.

Inadequate supplies and Roche's reported refusal to license Tamiflu patents to other firms have caused widespread concern. Now, Cipla, India's third-largest pharmaceutical manufacturer vows to produce a generic copy of Tamiflu despite substantial risk of patent infringement.

Of course, Roche did NOT patent the composition covering Tamiflu; Gilead did. Part of the current interest in this story is in the way Roche and Gilead are interacting. Professor Field's October 18 article is in error about Roche patenting Tamiflu and misses the interesting license issue between Roche and Gilead. Separately, Roche is entertaining [sub-]licensing proposals.


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