Cipla ready to supply generic drug to West

Written by Corporate Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Apr 28 2009, 06:29am hrs
As worries about a possible swine flu outbreak in the West spread, pharma major Cipla Ltd on Monday said it is ready to supply 1.5 million doses of oseltamivir, the generic version of the bird flu drug, Tamiflu, which can be effective for swine flu.

Cipla, which had challenged multinationals with its cheap versions of AIDS drugs for a Medecins Sans Frontieres programme in Africa years ago, said it can deliver the drug in a month. Cipla has the capacity to supply the drug within 4-6 weeks, Amar Lulla, joint managing director, Cipla, said on Monday.

The company hasnt yet been approached by any government, Lulla said. Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, health ministry, said the country may add one million doses of Tamiflu or its generic versions to fight any outbreak of swine flu, doubling existing stockpiles.

Cipla sells the generic copy of Tamiflu in India at Rs 1,000 ($20) for a dose of 10 capsules, Lulla said. In contrast, the market price for Tamiflu is Rs 3,000 ($60). The company can supply India and overseas governments from its domestic factories, he said.

Following his statements, the companys shares soared on Monday to a 52-week high of Rs 255.50, before closing at Rs 243, up by Rs 4.35 or 1.82% on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Early this month, the Delhi patent office had rejected the application of Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, for a patent, considering Ciplas arguments that the drug lacked inventiveness. Swiss major Roche Scientific has bought the marketing rights for Tamiflu in about 50 countries, including India. It has also sub-licensed its production and marketing rights to Hyderabad-based Hetero in India. In 2006, with the outbreak of the bird flu in India, Cipla had announced its capability to launch the drug in India.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type-A influenza that regularly causes outbreaks among the animals. Reports said at least 103 people have died in Mexico from the swine flu. WHO has declared the flu to be a public health emergency of international concern and governments are taking precautions to screen for the virus.

Swine flu rattles global markets

The world financial markets held on to an incipient economic recovery even as the World Health Organisation held a meeting of its emergency committee to decide on the level of threat from the swine flu that moved to countries as far apart as Mexico and New Zealand. Despite the announcement of a possible pandemic, the S&P index and the Dow Jones index inched back after a slide, that mirrored a similar drop early in the day in Asian and European markets--the MSCI World equity index shed 0.7% and nervous investors rushed to exit their positions. About the only exception was India where the benchmark Sensex closed 0.4% higher.

For the US markets, General Motors Corps plan to cut liabilities by $44 billion has somewhat offset concern the swine flu outbreak will hurt travel, energy and hotel companies.

Though swine flu has been reported off an on from 2005 to January 2009, none had claimed any life till the current outbreak.