Aspen Pharmacare’s new R1bn high-containment facility at its Port Elizabeth production site will soon be making drugs for treating late-stage cancers, Parkinson’s disease and medicines that prevent organ rejection in liver-and kidney-transplant patients.
At full capacity the facility will produce about 3.6-billion tablets a year and package about 3-million bottles a month. Production will start in June.
The JSE-listed company with a market capitalisation of more than R100bn is the world’s largest exporter of eye drops to the US and is the largest supplier of generic medicines in SA. It also mass-produces antiretrovirals for the state’s HIV/AIDS programme and for other parts of Africa.
Aspen’s export plans for the facility dovetail with the government’s vision to make SA a leading exporter of high-technology products. Its opening precedes a R4.5bn investment at the same complex, set to be completed in 2023. It will cement the group’s place as the world’s second-biggest producer of general anaesthetics and injectable anticoagulants, after the US.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, who presided over the facility’s opening earlier in May, says public sector procurement of pharmaceuticals in SA makes up only 15% of the total. Private sector demand for medicines takes up 85%. This means the government needs to procure far more locally, Davies says.
Aspen’s products are available in 150 countries, with 25 manufacturing facilities in Latin America, the US, Europe, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. The company has sales representation in 43 nations. China is its largest market, while Japan is a big destination for generics, anaesthetics and antithrombosis drugs.
“Aspen’s capital investment into the South African market over the past two years has outstripped investments made into the [local] pharmaceutical industry by the entire domestic and international industry over the past decade,” says Aspen CEO Stephen Saad.