Aspen adds anaesthetics at J&J vaccine plant in Gqeberha

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Aspen’s flagship manufacturing site in Gqebhera, Eastern Cape.
Aspen’s flagship manufacturing site in Gqebhera, Eastern Cape.

Aspen opened the southern hemisphere’s largest general anaesthetics manufacturing line, adding production at the South African plant where it fills and packages the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

The extension will see products generating R8 billion a year relocated to the coastal town of Gqeberha from Europe, Chief Executive Officer Stephen Saad told reporters at the site on Monday.

Aspen shifted the production of drugs for late-stage cancer, Parkinson’s disease and some auto-immune illnesses to the factory in 2018. Last year it started making the J&J shot there.

“This facility will help ensure no African is ever denied these treatments like anaesthetics and vaccines again,” Saad said. “We thank J&J for giving us the capability to create our own manufacturing facilities. So we’ve been able to produce vaccines in Africa and now to also bring anaesthetics home.”

aspen
Inside Aspen’s sterile anaesthetics production facility.

Durban, South Africa-based Aspen has switched focus to producing so-called steriles such as anaesthetics rather than lower-value generic medicines, paving the way for a push into vaccines. The group is in talks with J&J about gaining a license to fully manufacture the coronavirus dose. 

Aspen has received two unsolicited offers for its active pharmaceutical ingredient business and has started a process aimed at evaluating proposals for the unit. The approaches are for operations almost exclusively in Europe and make both chemicals and the anticoagulant drug heparin. The company has already sold most of its other heparin interests, part of a recent slimming down effort to reduce debt. 

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