SA announces HIV drugs partnership

2012-02-10 14:18
Cape Town - The South African government has announced a joint venture to reduce the cost of anti-retroviral drugs with a Swiss company.

This joint venture named Ketlaphela will establish the first pharmaceutical plant to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients [APIs] for anti-retroviral medicines in South Africa," Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor announced on Friday.

Ketlaphela, which means "I will live or survive" in Sesotho was created with an investment of more than R1bn by various state bodies and will be built at the Pelindaba site in Gauteng.

Pandor said that the purpose of producing the APIs locally was to try and reduce the cost of drugs to combat HIV that causes Aids.

"Ketlaphela will reduce the country's dependence on imported drugs and will provide security of supply of priority drugs, stable pricing with less sensitivity to exchange."

Local manufacture

Local companies already produce generic drugs for HIV, but all the APIs have to be imported, which raises the cost of medications.

South Africa imports over R25bn worth of drugs annually and it is estimated that local manufacture of the API will greatly reduce the cost of HIV, TB and malaria medications.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaldi said that the cost of medications has declined and is expected further reductions of up to 40% once the facility is functional.

SA holds the second largest deposits of fluorspar globally and through Pelchem, SA will attempt to increase the beneficiation of the mineral which is essential to produce APIs which can account for 75% of the cost of medication.

Pandor said that she hopes this partnership with Lonza will create a thriving biotechnology sector in the country.

"Ketlaphela will leapfrog South Africa into the 21st century as far as local pharmaceutical manufacturing is concerned, It will provide new opportunities for South African scientists and pharmaceutical companies," she said.

Government officials estimate that the facility will create additional 2 200 jobs in the sector.

"These jobs will include direct and indirect jobs in both the formal and informal sector of the economy. An estimated 3 800 jobs will be created during the construction phase," Pandor said.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    naledi pandor  |  hiv aids  |  health

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