JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia on Friday said it will begin producing the bird flu drug Tamiflu. Hard-hit Vietnam reported another outbreak of the virus among poultry.
Swiss-based drug manufacturer Roche Holding AG said it will let Indonesia produce the drug and the country will start making it as soon as it decides whether to get the raw materials from China or Korea, said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari.
"This means we can produce Tamiflu in our own factories," she told The Associated Press.
Roche refused to comment on whether it was offering Indonesia any technical assistance.
"Tamiflu does not have patent protection in Indonesia," Roche spokesman Baschi Duerr said from the company's headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. "Indonesia is therefore free to produce Tamiflu as long as the product is distributed only in the domestic market."
Tamiflu, otherwise known as oseltamivir, has shown promise in the treatment of human H5N1 bird flu infections.
The announcement came the same day the country announced that bird flu has been detected in poultry throughout Jakarta.
"It is very serious," said Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono. "Based on our research, the virus has spread all over the city."
The findings were announced after random samples were gathered from backyard farms throughout the sprawling capital. Authorities on Friday also destroyed 400 fowl in a residential area of Jakarta near the home of a young girl who died from the disease.
The H5N1 virus has been found in 23 of Indonesia's 30 provinces and has killed seven people.
In Vietnam, officials on Friday reported new infections in southern Long An province, the Department of Animal Health said on its Web site.
Outbreaks have been reported in 19 other provinces throughout the communist country since October, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 1 million birds, it said.
In Japan, officials announced plans to develop a bird flu vaccine prototype to help create a human vaccine if the virus mutates into a form that passes easily between people, said Tomohiko Arai, head of a government advisory panel on science.
The Japanese plan calls for faster development and approval of flu vaccines, Arai said. Currently, vaccine production requires several months of development plus safety screening before clinical use.
At least 67 people have died from bird flu in Asia since 2003, the bulk of them in Vietnam. Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a contagious form that spreads easily from person to person. So far, most human cases have been traced to contact with birds.