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Shanghai produces 1st batch of flu antiviral drug
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China's first batch of antiviral drug for influenza A/H1N1, including 256,000 pills, rolled off the production line in Shanghai Friday.

The Oseltamivir Phosphate Capsules, manufactured by the Shanghai Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. Ltd., have passed all quality tests required, Wu Jianwen, president of the company, said Friday.

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

The Shanghai Pharma halted production of Oseltamivir Phosphate Capsules in 2007, he said.

"Answering the call of the central government to combat the A/H1N1 flu, we began preparing for the resumption of production in late April," he said.

"Currently, 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 shows new changes," he said.

The Chinese mainland has confirmed at least 570 A/H1N1 flu cases, but with no fatalities, according to the Ministry of Health.

Worldwide, the new influenza strain has been found in 109 countries and regions, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO labs have confirmed 55,867 cases including 238 people who have died.

Tamiflu and Relenza produced by the London-headquartered GlaxoSmithKline are two recognized antiviral drugs in the world to treat A/H1N1 flu.

The Shanghai Pharma is one of the only two Chinese companies that are authorized by Roche to produce Tamiflu-like drug.

In addition to antiviral drug production, China has begun laboratory tests on the country's first developed A/H1N1 flu vaccine since Monday, with the seed virus received from a World Health Organization (WHO) lab on June 3.

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

The company had produced a first batch of 90,000 doses, but it would be able to make 600,000 doses a day once it was 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/H1N1 flu vaccines on June 15.

(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2009)

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