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F&C’s green team act on bird flu drug

F&C’s socially-responsible team has asked a maker of the anti-bird flu drug to consider its licensing position to allow other companies to make the drug.

The threat of a bird flu pandemic has led to large-scale buying of anti-flu drug Tamiflu, raising the share price of Swiss maker Roche to record levels. But Roche faces pressure to allow other companies to manufacture the drug in the event of a crisis.

F&C socially-responsible investment analyst Olivia Lankester flew out last week to consult on licensing issues with the firm. Panic-buying of Tamiflu has followed reports of human casualties in Thailand and the finding of infected birds in Turkey and Romania. This week, it was confirmed that a parrot imported to the UK from South America has died in quarantine from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which is potentially lethal to humans.

F&C director of governance and socially-responsible investment Robert Barrington says: “It is often counter-intuitive for pharmaceutical companies to open up licensing arrangements but the question is what are the circumstances in which it is sensible or in shareholders’ long-term interests to do so?”

Gaeia Partnership director Brigid Benson says: “This is a good thing as long as a fair price can be agreed. The thorny issue is that companies who paid for the original research do not want to let it go too cheaply. However, with the HIV crisis in Africa, these kinds of efforts should not just be made for pandemics affecting the West.”

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