Commentary on medical news by a practicing physician.

  • Epocrates MedSearch Drug Lookup


    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

    ''Once you tell people there's a cure for something, the more likely they are to pressure doctors to prescribe it.''
    -Robert Ehrlich, drug advertising executive.

    "Opinions are like sphincters, everyone has one." - Chris Rangel

    email: medpundit-at-ameritech.net

    or if that doesn't work try:


    Medpundit RSS

    Quirky Museums and Fun Stuff

    Who is medpundit?

    Tech Central Station Columns

    Book Reviews:
    Read the Review

    Read the Review

    Read the Review

    More Reviews

    Second Hand Book Reviews


    Medical Blogs


    DB's Medical Rants

    Family Medicine Notes

    Grunt Doc




    Code Blog: Tales of a Nurse

    Feet First

    Tales of Hoffman

    The Eyes Have It


    SOAP Notes


    Cut-to -Cure

    Black Triangle



    Kevin, M.D

    The Lingual Nerve

    Galen's Log



    Doctor Mental



    Finestkind Clinic and Fish Market

    The Examining Room of Dr. Charles

    Chronicles of a Medical Mad House



    Health Facts and Fears

    Health Policy Blogs

    The Health Care Blog

    HealthLawProf Blog

    Facts & Fears

    Personal Favorites

    The Glittering Eye

    Day by Day


    The Business Word Inc.

    Point of Law

    In the Pipeline


    Tim Blair

    Jane Galt

    The Truth Laid Bear

    Jim Miller

    No Watermelons Allowed

    Winds of Change

    Science Blog

    A Chequer-Board of Night and Days

    Arts & Letters Daily

    Tech Central Station





    The Skeptic's Dictionary

    Recommended Reading

    The Doctor Stories by William Carlos Williams

    Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth Fenn

    Intoxicated by My Illness by Anatole Broyard

    Raising the Dead by Richard Selzer

    Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo

    A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich



    American Academy of Pediatrics

    General Health Info

    Travel Advice from the CDC

    NIH Medical Library Info



    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Tamiflu Fever: A feared shortage of the anti-influenza drug, Tamiflu, is becoming more of a source of panic than the feared outbreak of bird flu. It's throwing some of the usual suspects into fevered conspiracy theories (read the comments) even though the drug doesn't cure or prevent the disease.

    Today's New York Times takes a look at the chemistry behind the Tamiflu production:

    Roche has said the manufacturing process requires 10 steps that take six to eight months once the raw materials are in hand. It also says that some steps in production are potentially hazardous because they involve the use of sodium azide, the chemical that makes automobile air bags inflate in an explosive rush. The company says it would take a newcomer two to three years to be able to start production.

    ....Part of the disagreement about the difficulty might stem from the difference between making small quantities in the laboratory, which can be done quite easily, and producing large amounts commercially. Ernie Prisbe, vice president for chemical development at Gilead Sciences, which invented Tamiflu and licensed it to Roche, said an industry rule of thumb is that each step, even if well defined, takes one month to six weeks to put into practice. Tamiflu manufacturing, by his count, involves 12 steps.

    And it takes an awful lot of star anise to make a little bit of Tamiflu:

    According to a presentation at a conference last year by a Roche chemist, it takes 13 grams of star anise to make 1.3 grams of shikimic acid, which in turn can be made into 10 Tamiflu capsules - enough to treat one person. By that reckoning, one ton of shikimic acid would be enough for 770,000 people.

    But Mr. Hamied, a chemist, disputed that, saying one ton of shikimic acid would yield enough for only 300,000 people at most. And newcomers are not likely to have the same production efficiency as Roche, he said.

    It's an interesting article that explores other methods of producing the key ingredient, shikimic acid, as well. A lot of the work is outsourced to other companies, including some in the fermentation and explosives industry.

    That means quite a few businesses have to be convinced that it's worth their while to ramp up production for a product that right now is enjoying a bubble only because of hype.

    posted by Sydney on 11/05/2005 01:35:00 PM 0 comments


    Post a Comment

    This page is powered by Blogger, the easy way to update your web site.

    Main Page


    Home   |   Archives

    Copyright 2006