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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
Bayer faces patent pressure
Antibiotic Cipro on the shelves of a New York drugstore
Many Americans are stocking up on anthrax treatments
Pressure is growing on German drugs company Bayer to relax its patent on its anthrax treatment in response to growing fear about bioterrorism.

In response to questions about pressure on Bayer to allow other countries to produce the drug, US health secretary Tommy Thompson said: "There's no question that discussions like that have been going on and will be going on."

Bayer already plans to triple production of the drug to meet the increased demand.

Others line up

However, other drug companies are already poised to supply the US with ciproflaxin, the generic name for Cipro.

Deepak Chatterraj, the head of the US arm of India's Ranbaxy Laboratories, told the BBC's World Business Report that he was ready to start shipping in December at an "attractive" but unspecified price.

Mr Chatterraj said that he and other firms had been approached by a US senator, Jack Schumer, to ask about their readiness to supply anti-anthrax drugs if necessary.

But he denied that he had been approached directly by the US government.

Shares surge

The shares of many biotechnology companies have risen sharply over the past week in response to the growing fear of bioterrorism in the United States.

Several people have now been diagnosed with anthrax after a series of letters contaminated with anthrax spores were sent to offices.

The expectation is that governments will now increase spending on products and services involved in the detection of biological agents and vaccines against them.

The UK and French governments have already announced new measures in response to concerns over events in the US.

This increased spending and investment makes biotechnology stocks attractive to investors.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Theo Leggett
"Intl patent law does allow govts to ignore patents in the event of a national healthcare emergency"
The BBC's Elliot Gotkine
"Bayer is struggling to meet demand"
Deepak Chatterraj of Ranbaxy
Talks to World Business Report about anti-anthrax drugs
See also:

16 Oct 01 | Americas
Two new anthrax cases hit US
16 Oct 01 | Health
UK stockpiles anthrax antibiotics
15 Oct 01 | World
Anthrax fears shake world
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