This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
BBC Learning English Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
 
You are in:Learning English > News English > Words in the News
 
Learning English - Words in the News
 
21 October, 2005 - Published 14:04 GMT
 
Tamiflu supply problems
 
Tamiflu packages

The Swiss drugs company Roche has agreed to meet four American firms who say they can make Tamiflu, which is widely seen as the most effective treatment for the bird flu virus in humans. But it could still be hard to make enough Tamiflu to meet demand. This report from Mark Gregory:

Listen to the story

Tamiflu is made from shikimic acid but until recently there was only one significant source of supply. The acid was extracted from the seeds of the star anise plant, which for centuries has been used in flavouring oriental cooking. The entire world crop of star anise comes from just four provinces in China, and it's only harvested in three months of the year.

Shortage of star anise would have been a major constraint on increasing production of Tamiflu, except that a few months ago a way was found of making shikimic acid artificially. Roche now derives some of the raw material it needs from fermenting e-coli bacteria. Other drug companies can copy this - but it won't be easy and it won't be quick. Every batch of Tamiflu takes a year to make - and at one of the ten stages the material is highly explosive.

Roche now says its willing to let other drug companies manufacture Tamiflu, but even if this does happen soon it will certainly be months, and possibly years, before stocks are big enough to meet potential demand in the event of a bird flu pandemic in humans.

Mark Gregory, BBC business reporter

Listen to the words

extracted from
taken from

harvested
taken from the ground

Shortage
A period when there isn't enough of something

a major constraint
a big restriction

artificially
through a man-made method, not through nature

derives
obtains, gets

batch
quantity of something made at a particular time

stocks
supplies

potential demand
possible need

in the event of a bird flu pandemic in humans
if many people around the world become ill with the human form of the bird flu virus

 
 
SEARCH IN LEARNING ENGLISH
 
 
 
LATEST STORIES
 
Other Stories