Ketchum beats rivals to Tamiflu account

Ketchum has landed a global account for Tamiflu, the drug viewed as the best weapon currently available against a flu pandemic.

The agency pitched against a number of rivals in order to win the acc­ount with Roche. It is a mix of corporate, B2B and government relations.

The account will be overseen by Ketchum director Sebastien Desprez, who manages the agency's healthcare group.

‘The main focus will be around getting prepared for a pandemic,' said Desprez. ‘Most experts agree that it is really a not a question of whether a pandemic will strike, but when.'

The media profile of flu drugs has been heightened over the last couple of years with experts warning that a flu pandemic could claim millions of lives around the world. There is a concern that the H5N1, the human strain of bird flu, could mutate to gain the ability to spread easily from person to person.

The World Health Organisation has recommended that governments stockpile Tamiflu, which is effective against a variety of flu strains. It is estimated there is currently enough in the UK to treat a quarter of the population.

The account was previously held by Cohn & Wolfe, which did not repitch.

The work does not cover the US, but Ketchum London will draw on the resour­ces of Ketchum's issues management team in New York.

Meanwhile, its Brussels-based practice GPlus Eur­ope will work with Hill & Knowlton - which handles public affairs work worldwide for Tamiflu.

The Ketchum team reports to Roche's international comms manager Helen Walicka, who is based at the pharma group's HQ in Basle, Switzerland. The agency already handles work for Roche, with global accounts including high profile cancer drugs Herceptin and MabThera.

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