October 25, 2005

Brazil, the world's largest exporter of poultry, has announced that it is to spend BRL193mn (US$85.38mn) purchasing 9mn doses of Roche's anti-flu treatment, Tamiflu, in order to combat a possible avian flu pandemic. The government is also preparing facilities to produce a potential vaccine against the disease.

The stockpile of Tamiflu would be used to treat hospitalised patients in the event of a breakout of the deadly H5N1 virus, which has been spreading through poultry in Asia. In 2002, bird flu was discovered in Chile, while a less virulent strain has been identified in Colombia.

Also, Brazil is to invest BRL3.1mn (US$1.37mn) in the biomedical research centre Insituto Butantan. The funding will be used to install facilities capable of producing a bird flu vaccine once one becomes available.

Meanwhile, Argentina has recently announced that it is planning to produce a generic version of Tamiflu. Under international regulations, compulsory licensing is permitted in times of "medical emergency."