| A poultry-seller waits for customers in Hanoi on Monday. Bird flu has killed over 60 people in Asia. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Oct. 24: A government task force will examine options for local production of a drug against avian influenza and indigenous development of a vaccine, officials have said.
The task force is expected to recommend within the next week strategies for local manufacture of oseltamivir, the antiviral drug owned by multinational giant Roche and designed to be effective against influenza viruses.
The Switzerland-based company had announced last week that it was willing to discuss with governments and other manufacturers the production of oseltamivir for use in a pandemic emergency.
Senior health ministry officials said the government wants local production of the drug. Oseltamivir is a patented product. Under India’s new patents regime, domestic manufacturers would need to negotiate terms with Roche for local production.
The government also has an option of invoking a compulsory licensing provision available under the new patents regime that it can apply in public health emergency situations.
Officials are talking to local manufacturers and some clarity about the options available will emerge within the next three days.
The government also plans to initiate a project to develop a vaccine against the H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus, but the list of research groups in the country to be involved in this effort is yet to be finalised.
Virologists and industry scientists have indicated that the vaccine development could take six to nine months.