The South African government has welcome the announcement by the global pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, that it will produce insulin in South Africa.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at an event addressed by WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Danish Finance Minister Nicoli Wammen and South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel.
The event was held on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly session attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa and other Heads of State.
“The collaboration between Novo Nordisk, a global leader in diabetic research and innovation, and Aspen, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, will facilitate the production of human insulin,” Minister Patel said.
“Aspen will produce this under a contract with Novo Nordisk. We are optimistic that this partnership will significantly enhance access to insulin treatment not just in South Africa, but also across the continent,” Patel said.
The contract will enable the local production of human insulin in SA through the conversion of insulin into finished dose vials. The collaboration will aim to supply over 1 million patients – 16 million doses in 2024 with a further upscaling to 4 million patients in 2026.
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that science and innovation can provide humanity with significant tools to fight disease and ill-health, enabling productive lives for people across the world.
“As populations expand, and lifestyles and diets change, we face a rising tide of non-communicable diseases. These diseases are chronic in nature and place a significant burden on communities and families, as well as on health systems, the fiscus, and economies.
“This is an excellent first step that we hope will pave the way for both licensing and additional manufacturing opportunities, in areas such as sterile cartridge production and the production of high-demand and the new classes of drugs, such as the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is largely inaccessible at present to African patients,” the Minister said.
The production of insulin will utilize Aspen’s sterile infrastructure in the city of Gqeberha in South Africa, including some of the infrastructure that was used for COVID-19 vaccine manufacture. Aspen will deploy 250 people for this production, which will commence in early 2024 and will reduce the transport-related carbon footprint by 68%.
Africa’s population of 1.4 billion people is a vast market and provides the commercial rationale for production in Africa for Africa and the world.
Production on the African continent will reduce the growing pharmaceutical trade deficit that both SA and the continent experience – Africa imports 99% of its vaccines and around 80% of its pharmaceutical requirements.