Saturday, November 5, 2005
The New York Times business section has an article on how difficult the manufacture of Tamiflu may be. It reports,
The National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan took only 18 days to produce a small quantity of Tamiflu, with guidance from published papers and patents. But producing large quantities is "another story" said K. S. Shia, who headed the project. Officials in Taiwan would not say how long it would take to achieve larger production.
Even if companies can make the drug, they might not have enough shikimic acid. That ingredient is extracted from the fruit of star anise trees, which grow in Southern China. Most of the star anise is now used for Roche's production, but it is also an Asian cooking spice and is used in herbal medicines and in the production of the liqueur pastis.
Since demand for Tamiflu started growing recently, the price of shikimic acid from China has soared to more than $400 a kilogram, from $40.
"We managed to corner a few tons but it won't go very far," said Mr. Hamied of Cipla. The company hopes by March to have produced enough oseltamivir to treat 100,000 to 200,000 people, he said.
Majikthise has some further information on the vaccine and whether it will even be effective against the bird flu.[bm]