Roche resolves shortage of liquid Tamiflu

Liquid Tamiflu is back. Roche says the temporary shortage of the liquid version of its flu fighter that it warned of two weeks ago is resolved and should stay that way for the rest of flu season. The timing is important, given that last year Roche's first-quarter earnings got a boost from Tamiflu sales.

In an email, Tara Iannuccillo, a spokeswoman for Genentech, the Roche ($RHHBY) unit that makes Tamiflu, said the backup in supply had been overcome and that the company now anticipates "having sufficient supply of both the liquid and capsule forms of Tamiflu to meet demand for this flu season." She pointed out that there has been continuous supply of Tamiflu 75-mg capsules throughout the 2013-14 flu season.

An update to the FDA drug shortage list also indicates the supply issue is over. The FDA had posted a shortage notice on Jan. 6 after Genentech notified it that demand for Tamiflu had thrown its packaging line behind and that there might be some spot shortages in certain parts of the country through mid-January.

On Thursday, Iannuccillo said, "We have limited information regarding Tamiflu supply in specific local areas. Given the widespread flu activity in 35 states nationally, there may be some instances where a local pharmacy may not have the liquid formulation of Tamiflu in stock." She explained that if consumers can't get the liquid form and need it, a healthcare professional can mix it up from capsules.

Lost sales for a product like Tamiflu are no small thing. Last year, Roche's impressive 13% leap in first-quarter sales were, in part, attributed to a tough flu season that resulted in an 84% growth in Tamiflu sales to $335 million. On the flip side, French drugmaker Sanofi ($SNY) in October reported that vaccine supply issues caused by problems at a plant in Canada were one of the factors undercutting its third quarter, both on the top line and bottom line. Its vaccines sales were off 7.2% to €1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) because of the "anomaly."

- here's the FDA shortage list