GlaxoSmithKline and Roche have been reduced to playing flu-drug traffic cop. Because the worried well are snapping up drugs all over the world, prompting shortages in some places, the drugmakers are strategically allocating their stocks. Glaxo says it's sending its antiviral Relenza to areas of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world that need it most. Roche has actually cut off French pharmacies because of a run on its Tamiflu drug; it's only supplying Tamiflu to hospitals in France.
The number of daily prescriptions for antiflu drugs skyrocketed last week to nine times previous April levels, the New York Times reports. To help keep up with demand, Roche and Glaxo quickly jacked up production: Glaxo now has 6 million Relenza treatments in stock and plans to boost production to 5 million treatments per month.
Roche has the capacity to churn out 400 million courses of Tamiflu worldwide, 80 million of those in the U.S. (no word, though, on how many it's making just now). " Over the past week, Roche has been ramping up Tamiflu output at multiple points in the supply chain," Roche said, adding that the ramp-up will continue. At the same time, India's Hetero Drugs--which is licensed to make a version of Tamiflu--says it's gearing up for some $10 million in orders for the drug.
Meanwhile, Roche deployed its rapid-response Tamiflu stocks at the World Health Organization's request. Between treatments stored by WHO and those held by Roche, that's 5 million courses available for the UN agency's use.