New Delhi: As the H1N1 Influenza virus (swine flu) death toll rises, pharma companies are lining to bag the contracts for Tamiflu.
Five pharma companies are in the race as the government looks to procure close to 20 million Tamilflu capsules over the next few weeks. The drug is the only known medicine to fight swine flu.
Tamilflu cannot be brought from the neighbourhood chemist but the government is stockpiling the medicine.
It is buying 20 million capsules over the next few weeks to take the stockpile to 30 million.
Pharma companies are interested as the order is big and if at some point of time the government allows retail sale of Tamiflu then the business will only get better.
Cipla, Ranbaxy, Hetero, Roche and Natco Pharma officials met with officials of the Health Ministry to discuss the issue. They will have to compete to get the order.
"The balance 1.25 crore would be procured again from these very companies based on competitive prices, ability ot deliver within the shortest possible time and the ability to provide a shelf life of four to five years," says Vineet Choudhary, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, the PR war has already begun.
Ranbaxy issued a statement saying, "Ranbaxy is ready to manufacture 1 million capsules in few weeks time if the government gives the go ahead."
Cipla has also gone on record saying it has the capacity to get the drug.
"As far as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is concerned government hasn't yet told us but we are waiting to know from the government and we can certainly up our production within six weeks. We can have a million doses in six weeks if we are told that we need it," says Cipla Medical Director Dr Jaideep A Gogtay.
Even Swiss major Roche, which holds the marketing rights for the original Tamiflu is pitching for making the drug.
With murmurs of Tamiflu making its way to the retail market and in the hands of black marketers, the government is sounding tough.
"If there is black marketing on these items, then the government needs to come down with heavy hand," warns Vineet Choudhary.
The long-term solution to swine flu is the vaccine but that is still several months away.
Till then the government says it will import as many vaccines as required.
(With inputs from Mike Samgma and Seemi Pasha)