February 4, 2009

Tamiflu Held By Governments Worldwide

Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, said Wednesday, that about 220 million doses of Tamiflu, the vaccine against bird flu, are in the hands of governments worldwide.

"There are 220 million treatments in the hand of governments for a first line treatment," Williams Burns, head of Roche's pharmaceutical division, said at a news conference.

According to Burns, the quantity of Tamiflu held by the government is a "modest level of preparedness" given that the world population stands at over six billion people.

Burns also said that the sales of the vaccine last year dropped by 68 percent.  And, according to Roche's statement on Wednesday, the company's full-year net profit went down five percent.

Since 2003, about 250 people have died from bird flu worldwide, mostly in Asian countries, according to the World Health Organization.

The bird flu, also known as the H5N1 virus, spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, but experts fear the virus might mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.

Roche said that administering Tamiflu to an entire population during a flu pandemic would limit fatal cases to 1.3 cases per 1,000 people, compared to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 if nothing is given.


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