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Pharma stocks with swine flu panacea jump

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Shares of Indian drug firms that make the generic version of Roche’s Tamiflu, used to treat H1N1 flu, rose 5-19 percent on Tuesday as the death toll from the pandemic in the country rose to eight.

People wearing masks wait in a queue for a H1N1 flu screening at a hospital in New Delhi August 11, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

The Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Monday more than 850 people had so far tested positive for the virus, with about 340 under treatment and the rest discharged from hospitals.

Ranbaxy Laboratories, Strides Arcolab and Cipla have all expressed readiness to meet the expected demand for oseltamivir, sold under the brand name Tamiflu.

While Ranbaxy, Strides and Natco Pharma rose 5-19 percent, Cipla closed 0.5 percent lower after rising as much as 3.3 percent in the day.

“It is a sentimental impact,” said Sarabjit Kour Nangra, vice president-research, pharmaceuticals, at Angel Broking. “This is unlikely to sway too much the profitability picture of these companies.”

A dealer, declining to be named, said the shares were unlikely to stay up for more than a couple of days.

The government’s plan to stockpile 20 million dosages of Tamiflu drug will benefit Ranbaxy, Cipla, Strides and unlisted Hetero, but will have no significant impact on their earnings, said another pharmaceutical analyst, declining to be named.

Ranbaxy, majority-owned by Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo, produces oseltamivir bulk drugs and formulations and can provide close to a million capsules in the next few weeks to the domestic market, Ranbaxy’s president Ramesh Adige said in a statement.

The H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, emerged in April in the United States and Mexico, and has spread globally.

The World Health Organisation has said the H1N1 swine flu is unstoppable and has given up on trying to get a precise count of cases.

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