GSK prepares to cash in on bird flu fears

The company is hoping to benefit from the contingency plans of worried governments and corporations, as Roche, its Swiss rival, struggles to keep up with demand for Tamiflu, its flu treatment and the most widely regarded means of treating any outbreak of avian flu.

The Swiss company is likely to say today that it has witnessed a significant upswing in orders for Tamiflu, as it reports its latest quarterly results. It received US approval yesterday for a new Tamiflu manufacturing plant but was having to bat away growing calls for the company to give up patents and allow other pharmaceuticals companies to make the pills.

GSK's Relenza acts in a similar way to help fight the flu virus but is regarded as less reliable because it is inhaled, not swallowed. That might mean people with breathing difficulties do not get the correct dose.

Many governments are likely to resist calls to stockpile GSK's drug because of this drawback and because neither drug is wholly effective, only lessening the symptoms if taken early enough. The UK Government is buying 14.6 million doses of Tamiflu, enough to treat a quarter of the population.

GSK said it was enjoying significant interest in Relenza and was talking to several governments about contributing to bird flu stockpiles. One City analyst said the company might see an additional $1.4bn (£800m) in annual sales of the drug when the new capacity comes on-stream.

The company made 11 million doses of Relenza last year and has invested in new equipment at several manufacturing sites, including at Montrose in Scotland, that will boost capacity to 31 million doses in 2007, with more to follow.

Michael Leacock, a drug sector analyst at Nomura, told clients: "A major opportunity lies in the US, where the joint National Vaccination Advisory Committee and Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices meeting recommended that 133 million treatments of flu drugs be stockpiled in preparation for a possible pandemic. We understand Roche can deliver only 10 million courses of its Tamiflu in 2005 and 12 million in 2006 to the US, despite its new US plant. Relenza is seen as an important back-up product in pandemic flu planning."

Shares in Roche were among the best performers on the Swiss stock exchange yesterday because of investor excitement over Tamiflu, but there are increasing calls for it to give up its monopoly on the product.

Cipla, India's second-largest drug maker, will put in a provocative request today for a licence to make Tamiflu. Several US politicians have demanded Roche allow US companies to set up manufacturing plants.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions