Media Release

Basel, 7 November 2005

Roche announces further progress in Tamiflu production expansion

Roche’s current production network on track to produce 300 million treatments as of 2007
Over 150 requests received from third parties - first negotiations initiated

Roche announces today that it will have increased its own production capacity by the end of 2006 to then be in a position to produce 300 million treatments of Tamiflu annually. The expansion will be achieved by a further stepwise scale-up of Roche’s production network. It means a ten fold increase over the capacity in 2004 when the decision was taken to increase production, without any firm pandemic orders in place, in order to meet government’s needs for pandemic planning.

William M. Burns, CEO Division Roche Pharma, commented: “Patients’ needs in case of a pandemic remain our top priority. We have continually increased our production capacities and are now putting in place the means to increase production of Tamiflu to 300 million treatments as of 2007. In addition, we have entered into discussions with a number of interested parties to expand world wide supply, so governments can be as prepared as possible for when the influenza pandemic happens.”

More than 150 requests from third parties have been received to date and Roche production experts have already been in initial talks with 8 companies, amongst them large generic manufacturers and major pharmaceutical companies, as well as with a number of governments, including Taiwan and Vietnam. The goal is to be in a position to select potential partners for more detailed discussions by the end of November. Selection criteria are quality, technical ability, capacity and the speed of bringing that capacity on stream.

About pandemic planning
Roche has been working with many governments over the last few years to determine their needs for stockpiling of Tamiflu and has received and/or fulfilled orders from around 50 countries.
Roche has also pledged to donate 3 million treatments to the WHO for use where an influenza pandemic may start. This amount, according to experts, could contain or stop the spread of a potential pandemic at the source of the outbreak, if delivered rapidly.
Recently Roche has donated Tamiflu to Turkey and Romania, following the emergence of the avian influenza virus in these countries

About Tamiflu (oseltamivir)
Tamiflu is designed to be active against all clinically relevant influenza viruses and key international research groups have demonstrated, using animal models of influenza that Tamiflu is effective against the avian H5N1 strain circulating in the Far East.3

It works by blocking the action of the neuraminidase (NAI) enzyme on the surface of the virus. When neuraminidase is inhibited, the virus is not able to spread to and infect other cells in the body.

Tamiflu delivers:

  • 38 percent reduction in the severity of symptoms1
  • 67 percent reduction in secondary complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and sinusitis in otherwise healthy individuals2
  • 37 percent reduction in the duration of influenza illness5,3
  • Tamiflu was shown to provide up to 89 percent overall protective efficacy against clinical influenza in adults and adolescents who had been in close contact with influenza-infected patients4

In children, Tamiflu delivers:

  • 36 percent reduction in the severity and duration of influenza symptoms5
  • 44 percent reduced incidence of associated otitis media as compared to standard care6

As with any antiviral, a theoretical potential exists for an influenza virus to emerge with decreased sensitivity to a drug. Extensive monitoring, by Roche and the independently established Neuraminidase Inhibitor Susceptibility Network (NISN) measured the incidence of resistance to NAIs. From around 4000 patients treated with Tamiflu resistance was encountered in 0.4 per cent in adults and 4 per cent in children aged one to 12. This resistant virus was found to be less virulent than the wild type virus and did not affect the course of the illness.

The greatest use of Tamiflu today is in Japan. To illustrate this, there were an estimated 16 million influenza infections in Japan over the 2004/2005 influenza season. Roche estimates that around 6 million of those individuals infected with the influenza virus received Tamiflu. Even with this degree of usage, resistance appears very infrequent.

Avian Influenza and Pandemics
Most avian influenza viruses are not infectious to humans, but, should an avian and a human influenza virus co-infect a human or a pig, the virus strains can join, mutate and create a completely new virus, which may be transmissible from animals to humans, and from humans to humans. Such a strain would be entirely new in composition, so vaccines developed and administered to date to protect humans during seasonal epidemics, would be ineffective against this new strain, leaving the population vulnerable to infection. Experts believe the next influenza pandemic could result from such a mutation of virus strains.

World Health Organisation
The WHO has recommended as part of its Pandemic Preparedness Plan that countries establish stockpiles of antiviral treatments such as Tamiflu, which are effective against all strains of the influenza virus. The Pandemic Preparedness Plan, along with details of the 15 countries that have implemented national plans, can be viewed on the Internet.

About Roche
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is one of the world’s leading research-focused healthcare groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. As a supplier of innovative products and services for the early detection, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, the Group contributes on a broad range of fronts to improving people’s health and quality of life. Roche is a world leader in diagnostics, the leading supplier of medicines for cancer and transplantation and a market leader in virology. In 2004 sales by the Pharmaceuticals Division totalled 21.7 billion Swiss francs, while the Diagnostics Division posted sales of 7.8 billion Swiss francs. Roche employs roughly 65,000 people in 150 countries and has R&D agreements and strategic alliances with numerous partners, including majority ownership interests in Genentech and Chugai. Additional information about the Roche Group is available on the Internet (www.roche.com).

All trademarks used or mentioned in this release are legally protected.


1  Treanor JJ et al. Efficacy and safety of the oral neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir in treating acute influenza: a randomized, controlled trial. JAMA 2000;283: 1016–24
2  Kaiser et al. Impact of Oseltamivir treatment on influenza-related lower respiratory tract complications and hospitalisations. Arch Intern Med. 163:1667-1672 (2003)
3  Nicholson KG et al. Efficacy and safety of oseltamivir in treatment of acute influenza: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2000; 355:1845–1850
4  Welliver R. W. et al. Effectiveness of oseltamivir in preventing influenza in household contacts: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 2001 Feb 14; 285(6): 748-754
5  Whitely RJ, Hayden FG et al; Oral oseltamivir treatment of influenza in children, Pediatr Infect Dis J 2000; 20: 122-133
6  Roche data on file, 2003



Additional information
- Roche Health-Kiosk, Influenza
- About Tamiflu
- About influenza
- WHO: Global influenza programme
- WHO: Avian flu