Danish Healthcare Firm and Aspen Pharmacare Close Deal To Establish SA’s First Insulin Factory

By Sinazo Mkoko

A new deal between Danish healthcare firm Novo Nordisk and Aspen Pharmacare to establish South Africa’s first human insulin factory has been sealed. The collaboration between Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited and its wholly-owned South African subsidiary, Aspen SA Operations (Pty) Ltd, and the global healthcare company Novo Nordisk allows for local production of human insulin in South Africa to cater to the needs of people with diabetes on the African continent.

In a statement released, Aspen Pharmacare stated that they will manufacture these vials at its existing sterile facility in Gqebera, Eastern Cape. The Group said they spent R6-billion to construct these facilities and related technology. The sterile infrastructure, including some used for COVID-19 vaccine production, will be used for insulin manufacture. Aspen stated that they will employ roughly 250 workers for this production, which is set to begin in early 2024. The collaboration will also cut the carbon impact of transport by 68%.

Aspen Group CEO Stephen Saad said the company has a clear objective and focus to “capacitate Africa and give quality, affordable access to critical medicines from sites based in Africa that are also capable of exporting to global markets. “We are proud to be associated with and working with Novo Nordisk, a global leader in many areas, including diabetic insulins. We hope to build off this initial foundation with Novo Nordisk to further expand access. In addition, this development is important to retaining critical skills, developing new talent on the continent, and diversifying global supply chains to ensure security of supply and improved patient access,” he said.

“To this end, the technical and skills transfer agreement is key and an endorsement of Africa’s role in the regional and global pharmaceutical supply chain. We thank Novo Nordisk for this demonstration of their confidence in Aspen; together, we can positively impact the millions of patients most in need.” Novo Nordisk released a statement stating that next year there will be a production of 16 million vials, “equivalent to the yearly consumption of 1,1 million people. By 2026, this number will increase to 4,1 million people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes across the African continent.”

Corporate Vice President for Global Public Affairs and Sustainability at Novo Nordisk, Katrine DiBona, said they firmly believe that access to quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. “We are committed to providing affordable human insulin to ensure access to quality treatments for even more people with diabetes on the African continent. At the same time, it is equally important for us that we are doing it in a sustainable way by focusing on local production.”

The global healthcare company said human insulin will be distributed at low cost to health authorities and nongovernmental organisations through government tenders as part of Novo Nordisk’s sustainable business integrated model, iCARE. According to Novo Nordisk,it is estimated that by 2030, more than 60 million diabetics worldwide will lack access to the insulin they need. They state that people living in low- to middle-income nations would be disproportionately affected, especially the 24 million adults in Africa who presently have diabetes. By 2045, they said, this figure is expected to rise to 55 million.


About iCARE

iCARE is Novo Nordisk’s ambitious business-integrated model in Sub-Saharan Africa that works through partnerships across the region to put in place and strengthen four fundamental pillars for sustainable diabetes care. Driven by Novo Nordisk’s regional affiliate covering 49 countries, iCARE aims to address poor access to insulin and improve access to quality diabetes care. iCARE has four fundamental pillars for better access to care for people living with diabetes: capacity, affordability, reach, and empowerment.

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