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      GSK prepares to bring bird-flu drug to India


      Relenza was not an anti-viral medicine that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was planning to register in India. But with bird-flu putting the global spotlight on Relenza, along with Tamiflu, GSK has put in a `stock requirement' for India with its parent company in London.Relenza and Tamiflu (from Gilead-Roche) are the two drugs reported to be effective against the bird-flu. Consequently, governments across the world are in a race to stock these drugs in the event of an outbreak.

      The parent company is assessing the requirement across the world for Relenza and a decision on the allocation will be taken, Kal Sundaram, Managing Director of GSK in India, told Business Line.

      Only recently Roche had indicated that it had placed orders with the parent company for the Indian market. The company expects to execute about 20 per cent of India's requirement for one lakh drugs by April next year.

      Developed by Biota, Relenza is marketed globally by GSK. Biota gets a seven-per cent royalty on the sale of the drug. More clarity on making Relenza available in India is expected to emerge by the year-end, the GSK chief said. | Read more Finance news. |

      He said as it was a pre-1995 drug, it does not get product-patent protection in India under its new patent regime. Further, this indicates that generic Indian companies would be able to make copies of the drug, said Sundaram. But the process involved in making the drug is difficult, he added. Besides, the drug needs to be inhaled.

      The GSK Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Pierre Garnier, had in fact told investors last month that the company planned to scale up its production, in collaboration with partners interested in making the anti-viral.

      "We also have to be realistic; even going at it seven days a week, 24 hours a day, we can't come close to the demand the world might need," Garnier is believed to have told investors, according to news reports from London.

      In India, two Mumbai-based companies have shown interest in making this drug. Cipla has said that it had commenced research on Relenza. Nicholas Piramal had also indicated that the company was willing to enter into a toll-manufacturing contract with GSK to make the drug.

      November 23, 2005


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