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developments in the region and abroad
Indian firm may bring generic version of bird flu drug to mkt by 2006


BOMBAY, Oct 15 (AP): A major Indian pharmaceutical company has said it plans to bring a generic version of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu to market early next year, thus filling any potential shortages in the event of a bird flu epidemic.
The drug is already in short supply following fears of a possible epidemic. But the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG, which makes Tamiflu, has refused to license generic versions of the drug despite pressure from several countries and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Dr. Yusuf K. Hamied, chairman of Cipla Ltd., said Friday that his company has already developed the generic version, oseltamivir, which would be much cheaper than Tamiflu - the only available drug that is effective in treatment of people infected with bird flu.
"We have been able to synthesise it. Once the lab work is done things don't take too long," Hamied said in a telephone interview from Spain, where he was attending an international symposium on AIDS. "We are in the process of scaling up and commercialisation. That should be completed next month."
Hamied did not disclose how his company would price the generic version, but said it would be available at "a humanitarian price."
"I have always said there should be access to medicine at affordable prices," he said.

Four immigrants killed as building collapses in Spain

MADRID, Oct 15 (AFP): At least four immigrants were killed early Saturday when a three-storey building collapsed in a town near the northeastern city of Barcelona, the local fire service said.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.
"Four people are dead, two were brought out of the rubble and taken to health centres and two others came out on their own," a fire service spokesman told the news agency.
He did not specify the nationalities of the dead or how many people might be still in the building, which locals described as being in poor state.

Nepal elected UNESCO executive board member

KATHMANDU, Oct. 15 (Xinhua): Nepal has been elected as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) executive board for the period of four years from 2006 to 2009, Nepal Television reported Saturday.
Nepal is among five Asian countries selected during an election in the ongoing 33rd session of UNESCO General Conference in Paris, the state-owned television reported quoting spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal.
The other four are Nepal, India, Japan, Fiji and Kirghizstan.
Nepal lost the same election last year.

Two-thirds of South Koreans want their country to be nuclear-armed: Survey

SEOUL, Oct 15 (AP): Two-thirds of South Koreans believe their country should be armed with nuclear weapons as an international standoff continues over the communist North's atomic programme, according to survey results released Saturday.
The survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo daily newspaper and the East Asia Institute think tank said 66.5 per cent of the respondents among 1,038 adults polled said they wanted a nuclear-armed South Korea.
The survey, published by the JoongAng Daily - the English-language version of the country's major newspaper - had a margin of error of 3.0 percentage points.