Shortages of a precursor for Tamiflu production, shikimic acid, which is harvested from the star anise fruit in China, have been overcome recently and Roche now have production levels exceeding demand. This is fine while demand is low but could change again rapidly if there were a global pandemic situation. Researchers in southern India have identified several alternative plant sources for shikimic acid and are confident that they could produce whatever was required in the event of a demand surge. One reason for their confidence is the fact that the leaves of one or more of the identified plants contain shikimic acid as opposed to just the fruit of the star anise, so greater harvest potential would solve the shortage problems and give India a way into the lucrative business of supply which has been exclusive to China. The identities of the plants with the greatest potential are kept secret for obvious reasons. Hopefully this will result in smooth supply increases when needed and stable pricing.
For detailed recent (published 11th May 2009) influenza question and answer information we recommend the following pages from the MRC: