Company news

December 1, 2005
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe-12-01-2005, Volume 17, Issue 12

With the prospect of a possible pandemic the Swiss company, Roche, has found sales of its flu drug have rapidly increased but its patent is being questioned. Roche's Tamiflu sales have inflated by 263% in the first 9 months of this year but discussions of patent suspension from several countries and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is pressurizing the company.

Roche's flu headache

Emergency laws could see patent suspension

With the prospect of a possible pandemic the Swiss company, Roche, has found sales of its flu drug have rapidly increased but its patent is being questioned. Roche's Tamiflu sales have inflated by 263% in the first 9 months of this year but discussions of patent suspension from several countries and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is pressurizing the company.

Although the production of the drug is expected to rise to 8–10 fold more by mid-2006, US Senator Charles E. Schumer is calling for a temporary suspension of the patent, which will enable generic drugs to be manufactured. The Senator has promised compensation, but Roche is still resisting calls for the suspension stating that the development process is too dangerous and complicated.

Other countries, such as India and Vietnam, have threatened to break the patent and Taiwan has already started to create its generic claiming it is for public safety. The laws in these countries, which were recently tightened, allow companies to make generic copies during emergency situations.

Demand for the drug in the US alone has increased by sevenfold and shipments were stopped to the US and Canada to avoid panic buying.

In brief

The company has pledged that the treatment will be offered at a single discounted global pandemic price for all industrialized nations.

www.roche.com

Another name, a new future

A new mid-size, legally independent company will be set-up from the second quarter of 2006 by LANXESS. The company's fine chemical business unit will have a new name, new alignment and a new business model.

The separated company will be called Saltigo and will offer expertise in custom manufacturing to the global market. It will be a wholly owned subsidiary and will start with a capital investment from the parent company of €50 million up to the end of 2007, which may be doubled by 2010.

Sustainable improvement in commercial efficiency is an important objective for the company to close the gap with the competition. An agreement with the works council to lower the amount of employees by 500 has been reached, and to aid the mid-size company's start and create a favourable framework, unprofitable facilities will be closed.

www.lanxess.com

Merck's victory at cost of reputation

One year on from the first litigation case against the arthritis painkiller manufactured by Merck, victory has evened the score. The second case against the drug Vioxx ended in favour of the manufacturer after the jury decided that the former intermittent user of the drug, Frederick Humeston, would have suffered a heart attack whether taking Vioxx or not.

It was concluded from the trial that Merck did not commit consumer fraud or fail to inform consumers of the possible cardiovascular risks. However, the company's reputation has suffered severe damage from the accusations that side-effects of the drug were ignored and expects to gain further industry damage when the patents of two drugs expire.

This victory has implications for the estimated impending 6500 lawsuits, which indicates that similar and weaker cases can be dropped. Lawyers are expected to ensure strong plaintiffs and to avoid cases where usage was intermittent.

www.merck.com

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