Tamiflu to switch to OTC in USA?

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With 2018 a barren year for Rx-to-OTC switch, it is welcome news that Sanofi has signed a strategic deal with Roche for the exclusive OTC rights to Tamiflu (oseltamivir 75mg capsules, Genentech / Roche Group) for flu prevention and treatment in the USA. Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi will be responsible for leading negotiations with the US FDA for the OTC switch and subsequent exclusive marketing, scientific engagement and distribution of Tamiflu OTC in the USA. Roche will continue to market Tamiflu in the rest of the world and Sanofi will retain the rights to first negotiations for switch rights in other selected markets. Sanofi’s Executive VP for Consumer Health, Alan Main, noted that: “A successful switch of Tamiflu to OTC would support our global cough and cold strategy by expanding into flu with a sustainable point of difference in the market.”

As Nina Stimson, OTC.NewDirections Consulting Editor, commented: “To some extent this was an unexpected development, but welcome insofar as (if approved), OTC Tamiflu will help expand the boundaries of consumer healthcare. Of course, in certain conditions (such as the swine flu pandemic in 2009-10) Tamiflu has sometimes been available from pharmacists without a prescription; New Zealand was one such country to permit OTC supply on a temporary basis.” 

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Tamiflu’s patent in the USA and some other markets expired in 2016 and, as the chart above indicates, this has led to a steady decline in sales over recent years, with US Tamiflu sales falling by 29% in 2018 to total CHF168mn (US$170mn). Generic competition intensified in the USA in 2017 and continues to grow, while Tamiflu brand sales are now also in decline in Japan and internationally. Roche is now focusing its efforts on Tamiflu’s successor, Xofluza, which was approved by the FDA in late 2018.

If Tamiflu can switch to OTC successfully in the USA, then similar reclassifications will likely follow elsewhere. In 2009, in the midst of the global swine flu pandemic, Australia’s State of Victoria issued a public health emergency order allowing pharmacists to supply Tamiflu (oseltamivir) without a prescription. There has also long been talk of Tamiflu switching to OTC in Europe – in 2008, at the AESGP meeting in Sweden, the EMA’s Executive Director Thomas Lonngren cited Tamiflu as a possible candidate for the EU’s then newly created centralised procedure for Rx-to-OTC switch.

Explore the latest CHC Innovations and Technologies at our OTC.NewDirections Executive Conferencetaking place in London on 14 November 2019. Nicholas Hall and Nina Stimson will be joined by experts from companies including Bayer, Mundipharma and J&J to review key issues impacting our industry and ensure that you are Keeping Consumers in the Spotlight. Book your place before 13 September to take advantage of our early bird booking discount and save GB£100! To find out more, or to reserve your place, please contact Elizabeth.Bernos@NicholasHall.com.