The drug oseltamivir patented by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Roche under the trade name Tamiflu, has the potential to become the most sought-after drug of recent times. All will now depend on the magnitude to which avian flu will spread. Panic symptoms are already in place with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services procuring 12.3 millions of Tamiflu from Roche. On its part, Roche has also indicated that it would be increasing the production of the drug eight times the current output.
Cipla, which had donned the role of robin hood in the HIV drugs episode has once again proclaimed that it would not hesitate to bring out generic version of the patented drug. It had also expressed its willingness to fight legal battles in Indian courts on this account. The Tamiflu patent was filed in the Indian Patent Office on February 26, 1995 months after the new regime on patent was put into place. Cipla hopes that the Indian government would break the patent in the wake of a national health emergency.
There are legal provisions in the domestic patent laws of almost all countries to take care of public health requirements. The measures can amount either to cancellation of the concerned patent whereby generic companies will be free to bring in cheaper versions of the patented drug or force the patent holder to license the product to competitors.