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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Bird flu drug sales boost Roche
Packets of antiviral drug Tamiflu
Roche is thinking of allowing other firms to manufacturer Tamiflu
Drugs firm Roche has seen third-quarter revenues rise 17% helped by a jump in sales of Tamiflu, which is seen as the best treatment for bird flu.

The Swiss firm said sales of Tamiflu had more than doubled to 279m Swiss francs ($214m; 123m), compared with the same period a year earlier.

The company's overall sales for the three months to the end of September climbed to 8.8bn Swiss francs.

Roche said earlier this week that it may allow other firms to make Tamiflu.

Government stockpiles

The firm is now producing Tamiflu as fast as it can after the World Health Organization (WHO) advised countries to stockpile supplies to help combat a potential bird flu pandemic.

Roche will continue to take action to increase production capacity for Tamiflu to meet seasonal and pandemic needs

Roche now makes Tamiflu at 13 sites worldwide, producing more than 100 million capsules a year.

The WHO has warned that a flu pandemic could potentially kill up to seven million people, although others warn of a much higher death toll.

Roche's Tamiflu drug is seen as the most effective treatment for the most dangerous strain of bird flu, which killed 60 people in Asia in 2003, but it is not a vaccine.

"Roche will continue to take action, both on its own and with a significant number of suppliers, to increase production capacity for Tamiflu to meet seasonal and pandemic needs," the company said in a statement.

During the third quarter Roche said it also benefited from strong sales of its anti-cancer treatments, with sales of anti-cancer drug Avastin doubling to 486m francs.

Roche's trading update beat market expectations, but the firm said its full-year profits target remained unchanged.

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