Washington to give antiviral drugs to WHO

A box of Tamiflu rests beside prescriptions waiting to be filled at Doughery's Pharmacy in Dallas, Texas May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government said on Thursday it will give 420,000 treatment courses of Tamiflu to the Pan-American Health Organization to help fight the new H1N1 influenza virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department said treating and preventing the virus helps the security of the region, as well as that of the United States.

HHS has bought 50 million courses of antiviral drugs, including Roche AG’s Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza, or zanamivir.

HHS released 11 million treatment courses in April, soon after swine flu was first detected, and has since bought 13 million more. The new virus, declared a pandemic last month, now infects more than a million people, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It has been the confirmed cause of 170 deaths in the United states and more than 300 globally.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the donation of the drugs at a meeting of government health ministers in Cancun, Mexico on Thursday. PAHO is the Americas branch of the World Health Organization.