Business Today

Riding High on Tamiflu

Indian pharma companies say they are geared to meet the global demand for the antidote to H1N1 infection.

Print Edition: May 31, 2009

With demand for the antidote to H1N1 infection peaking across the world, the select Indian pharmaceutical companies are ramping up production of Tamiflu or its generic version. At least one such company, Hetero Drugs, is already in the process of supplying 1 million capsules to the Government of India and is confident of being able to deliver up to 40 million capsules to countries seeking to contain the spread of the viral.

Tamiflu tablets from Hetero Drugs
Tamiflu tablets from Hetero Drugs
The Hyderabad-based firm, which has a sub-licence from Roche to manufacture Tamiflu, wears a busy look these days. With the flu already claiming nearly 150 lives in Mexico and causing concern globally, Hetero and other players know this is a big chance to demonstrate their ability.

Others such as Cipla and Ranbaxy say they are equally well placed to ramp up production of Oseltamivir, the generic version of Tamiflu. “We can supply 1.5 million doses in four to six weeks,”’ says Cipla’s Managing Director Amar Lulla. Adds Ramesh Adige, President of Ranbaxy: “We can commence supplies at fairly short notice.”

The huge numbers, however, do not necessarily mean fat profits. Says Srinivas Reddy, Director, Marketing, Hetero Drugs: “This may not add to our bottom line as there is always a pressure to offer the drug at lower prices in the unregulated markets.” However, it could play an important role in creating goodwill in some of the important emerging markets.

Reddy feels India today has the ability to meet at least 60 to 70 per cent of the total demand in the unregulated markets. Indian companies could gain in other ways, too. For instance, it could give firms like Ranbaxy an opportunity to showcase its manufacturing capabilities and use it as a bargaining tool to get pending issues sorted with the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

 Tackling the Flu

  • Hetero Drugs, Cipla, Ranbaxy and Natco Pharma manufacture Tamiflu or its generic version
  • Hetero alone has orders to deliver 1 million capsules to the Government of India
  • Countries in Latin America, Africa, West Asia and the US may stockpile the medicine
  • Indian companies can meet 60 to 70 per cent of the demand in unregulated markets
  • It could give companies such as Ranbaxy, bargaining power to sort out issues with USFDA

E. Kumar Sharma

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