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U.S. Shipping Tamiflu Stockpile to Asia
posted by admin on 23/05/06

It could redirect the stocks for domestic use if overseas uses proven not feasible. 

GENEVA -- The U.S. is sending a stockpile of the antiviral drug Tamiflu to Asia as a first defense against a possible flu pandemic, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt said Monday. 

Leavitt said Washington has shipped treatment courses of Tamiflu to a secure location in an unidentified Asian country. 

The drug, produced by the Swiss-based Roche Holding AG, is regarded as the best initial defense against a pandemic resulting from a possible mutation of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus into a strain easily passed between people. 

"It is a stockpile that would belong to the United States and we would control its deployment," Mr. Leavitt said in Geneva, where he was attending the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the U.N. health agency's 192 members. 

He declined to say how much of the drug had been sent but said the shipment would arrive later this week. 

The medicine will be used to support international containment efforts in the event of a human pandemic, but the United States could redirect the stocks for domestic use should it become clear that containment overseas was not feasible. 

Mr. Leavitt said the U.S. maintained its long-term goal of stockpiling enough Tamiflu to treat 25% of the U.S. population as part of its pandemic preparedness plan. He said the U.S. would have 26 million treatment courses by December, and the necessary 75 million by the end of 2007. 

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press

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