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Authorise generic avian flu drugs: Researchers

Australia must consider locally producing mass supplies of generic drugs to prepare for an avian flu pandemic, according to research by ANU health and legal specialists.

Patents on these antiviral drugs are currently preventing generic production of the drugs, say Dr Buddhi Lokuge, a public health specialist, and Professor Peter Drahos, Head of the Regulatory Institutions Network and Professor of Law at ANU.

"The Commonwealth Government or a State can authorise somebody other than the patent owner to use the patent," Professor Drahos said. "Potentially a local generic manufacturer could be encouraged to make large amounts of the drugs at cheaper prices."

According to the researchers, stockpiles in Australia of drugs to treat avian flu are limited at present because of a severe global shortage brought about by the patents. As a result, a confidential rationing list has been established to determine priority access.

But by issuing compulsory licences, Australia will be able to produce enough antiviral therapies to protect Australians and our neighbours in the event of a pandemic, they say.

"Control of the disease in potential source countries is in Australia's national interest. Australia has an opportunity and a responsibility to promote compulsory licensing and generic production in the Asian region," Dr Lokuge says.

Some countries including Thailand and Argentina have indicated that they will authorise generic manufacture of these antivirals.

In the United States, Democrat Senator Charles Schumer has raised the issue of compulsory licensing and this has led Roche to talk to four generic manufacturers about voluntary licences.

"These countries are playing a smart game. By raising the issue of compulsory licensing they are ensuring that they will get priority ahead of countries like Australia which have remained silent about the issue," Professor Drahos says.

Such action by the Australian Gove
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Contact: Amanda Morgan
+61 261 255 575
Research Australia
26-Oct-2005


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