Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel has officially opened multinational specialty pharmaceutical company Aspen’s general anaesthetics production line at its flagship manufacturing site in Gqeberha.
This manufacturing capability will convert Aspen’s Gqeberha facility into one of the largest manufacturing hubs for general anaesthetic products in the world.
The unveiling of the general anaesthetics line follows shortly on the heels of a visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year at the start of the production of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
Officiating at the opening of Aspen’s facility, Patel said the facility “consolidates the Eastern Cape as the most significant advanced pharmaceutical hub on the African continent and it will create local jobs”.
This is of particular importance, considering that, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa has experienced significant job losses, with small and the large businesses having faced closures and many having experienced revenue losses.
The start of operations is “timely” as anaesthetics are a class of drug that, among other uses, supports the treatment of Covid-19 patients who are on ventilators in intensive care units.
South Africa has, to date, imported the general anaesthetics needed in our healthcare system and the new production line will provide an important medical product for the local market, assuring security of supply, and the bulk of it will be exported across the world, contributing to global patient support.
Meanwhile, Aspen’s facility is able to produce up to 300-million Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine doses a year at full production. Should all raw materials be available, this figure will be ramped up to 415-million doses by February next year, which Patel cited as an “extraordinary achievement”.
Aspen intends to increase production further to 700-million doses by 2023.
In terms of international trade, however, Patel said the anaesthetic production line will allow South Africa to “bring something to the trading relationship”.
The anaesthetic lab time will immediately start generating business and will likely grow to more than R1.2-billion in yearly turnover by 2027.
Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad said the opening of the general anaesthetics manufacturing line is a “significant milestone” for Aspen as it will serve as a crucial anaesthetics hub for this critical medication.
“This is one of the world’s largest general anaesthetics production lines and it positively positions Aspen’s integrated supply, marketing, and sale of anaesthetics globally,” he commented.
Aspen has invested more than R3-billion in this facility, making it the “single largest investment in the pharmaceutical industry in the country” and aligns with Aspen’s commitment to supporting the industrialisation of South Africa.
Sterile Focus Brands, comprising anaesthetic and thrombosis products, is one of Aspen’s key business segments and contributes 28% of its revenue.
The general anaesthetics production line extends Aspen’s sterile footprint and complements the group’s strategic vision of delivering quality, affordable medicines using high-technology pharmaceutical equipment, contributing to improved health outcomes for patients.