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Antiviral flu drug produced in city

CHINA'S first new batch of an antiviral drug to fight swine flu came off the production line in Shanghai yesterday, while Shanghai Health Bureau reported five new flu cases.

The Oseltamivir Phosphate capsules, 256,000 in all, manufactured by the Shanghai Pharmaceutical (Group) Co Ltd, have passed quality tests, Wu Jianwen, president of the company, said yesterday.

The antiviral drug, the Chinese version of Tamiflu manufactured by Swiss drug maker Roche Holding, was first produced in 2005 to cope with the bird flu outbreak, under the authorization of Roche, Wu said.

Shanghai Pharmaceutical halted production of Oseltamivir Phosphate capsules in 2007, he said.

"Answering the call of the central government to combat (swine flu), we began preparing for the resumption of production in late April," he said.

"We'll be able to turn out 2?million pills per month, and we can expand the output capacity in the future if the flu epidemic gets worse," he said.

Shanghai Health Bureau reported five new swine flu cases yesterday, bringing the total local cases to 89.

Fifty-six patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital. All new patients had contracted the virus overseas, the bureau said. They were all in a stable condition last night. Local health authorities were chasing down people who had come into close contact with those infected as a precaution.

Tamiflu and Relenza, produced by GlaxoSmithKline, are the two recognized antiviral drugs used to treat the flu.

Shanghai Pharmaceutical is one of only two Chinese companies authorized by Roche to produce a Tamiflu-like drug.

In addition to antiviral drug production, China began laboratory tests on Monday on the country's first swine flu vaccine.

The vaccines are expected to hit the market in September after 14 days of safety tests in labs and two months of clinical tests from July, Fan Bei, deputy general manager of Hualan Biological Engineering Inc, has said.

The company has produced a batch of 90,000 doses, but it will be able to make 600,000 doses a day once the drug is approved, Fan said.

China has 11 drug firms that are qualified to produce flu vaccines. Another drug company, Sinovac Biotech Co Ltd, announced that it had started development of a swine flu vaccine on June 15.


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