The UK government has bought 10.6 million doses of Relenza in addition to another 7.6 million doses of Tamiflu – the drug that has been stockpiled since 2005, reports the BBC.
The UK will now have enough anti-viral drugs to treat half the population. The Public health minister, Dawn Primarolo said, “The increased flu-drug stockpile means that we should be able to treat everyone who falls ill in a pandemic ”
The two bird flu anti- viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, work by inhibiting a key part of flu called neuraminidase (N1) which is responsible for the release of the virus from infected human cells and allows the disease to spread.
The decision to stockpile Relenza comes after a UK study last year raised concerns about resistance to Tamiflu in the H5N1 strain of bird flu which has spread in south east Asia. But in 2006, leading scientists warned that more than one anti-viral drug should be stockpiled because of potential resistance.
Research published in the journal Nature last year also concluded that no single drug would be enough to treat all the victims of a global flu pandemic.
To date there have been 403 human cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus and 254 deaths, mostly in south east Asia. Experts warn that if the virus acquires the ability to pass from human to human, then it will pose a potential threat to millions worldwide.