BASEL, Switzerland - Pharmaceutical maker Roche Holding AG said Wednesday a new initiative will ensure that poor countries get its antiviral drug against swine flu at a lower price.
Under the Tamiflu Reserves Program, Roche will produce and ship the drug to developing countries upon order at a "significantly reduced price," it said.
A treatment of Tamiflu for a single ill person will cost between C2 euros and 6 euros (US$2.80 and $8.50), depending on the dosage, Roche said in a statement. The price excludes local taxes or tariffs, it added.
Tamiflu sells for as much as $100 per five-day treatment course in countries such as the U.S., but since 2005 the company has offered a discounted price of $16 per treatment to poor nations. Roche has also given approval for two companies - one in China and one in India - to produce Tamiflu generically.
Developing countries can order Tamiflu with Roche as of Wednesday, Rupp said.
The company will discuss with the World Health Organization and other UN agencies how to distribute the drug in the countries, she said.
Antivirals such as Tamiflu can shorten swine flu illness by about a day if given early. GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza is also believed to be similarly effective.
Many rich countries sit on stockpiles of Tamiflu.
David Reddy, who leads Roche's pandemic preparedness task force, said only six of the world's low income countries have stockpiled Tamiflu - a 0.02 per cent coverage for those countries.
Since populations in developing countries have more health problems like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia, experts believe the pandemic will have a more devastating impact there.
WHO has a stockpile of about five million Tamiflu treatment courses donated by Roche, and sent 2.4 million treatments to 72 poor countries in May.
Over 7,000 people have come down with swine flu worldwide and 311 died of it, according to the latest WHO figures.