The current pandemic with swine H1N1 remains sensitive to the oral neuriminidase inhibitor, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), an antivial. How long that will last isn’t clear, and neither drug in this category (Tamiflu or zanamivir/Relenza) is very effective, although they appear to work to some extent against sensitive influenza virus. But Tamiflu can be expensive and the cost adds up when we are talking of tens or hundreds of millions of doses. Part of the cost is that the drug company that makes Tamiflu, Roche, is in business to make money and isn’t readily giving up its licensing rights to allow others to make the drug and supply it more cheaply. But another part of the problem is that oseltamivir is not easy to make and requires expensive feed materials.
Or does it? More than 3 years ago we noted that a faster and cheaper way to make oseltamivir had been developed and put into the public domain. But nothing seems to have become of it. We wonder why.