SA pharmaceuticals group expanding its French operations

11th May 2018 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South African pharmaceuticals group Aspen is planning to invest €100-million in its French manufacturing operation in the coming years. This will be in addition to investments totalling €55-million made from 2015 to 2017.

Aspen has two operations in France – a manufacturing site at Notre-Dame- de-Bondeville (known as Aspen NDB) and a commercial operation, Aspen France (also referred to as the Exploitant). (Notre-Dame-de-Bondeville is in the Seine-Maritime Department, in the Normandy region.)

The South African company bought the NDB operation UK-based pharmaceuticals giant GSK (legal name GlaxoSmithKline plc) in May 2014. The purchase included the whole portfolio of thrombosis medication produced at NDB, which is a, if not the, world-leading centre for the manufacture of such products. In 2015, Aspen bought the rights to another major thrombosis product, Orgaran, and later acquired anaesthetics portfolios from Anglo-Swedish group AstraZeneca and GSK. NDB manufactures prefilled syringes and ampules.

“Our experience in France has been a good one,” says Aspen senior executive Stavros Nicolaou. “We are in France for the long haul. We will continue to have France as the global hub for the manufacture of our injectable thrombosis products.”

The €100-million investment programme comprises three main elements. The biggest of these is a €65-million project, designated THOR, to build a new production building that will initially have three production lines, for new products to be manufactured at NDB. One line will be for polypropylene ampules, one for polyethylene ampules and one for infusion bags. The building will also have space assigned to accommodate more production lines in the future.

The other two main elements in the investment programme are €25-million for a new high-speed filling line and €10-million for a new raw materials manufacturing facility for certoparine. (Certoparine is a heparin medication and NDB’s production will be mainly sold in Germany, as well as in Austria and Switzerland.) Together, these three developments will create about 100 new jobs. “Over the years, this manufacturing opportunity and the products manufactured [at NDB] have evolved, with quality standards being consistently improved upon,” he points out.

The previous wave of investments in NDB by Aspen had four elements. In October 2015, the company commissioned a new high-speed filling line for the production of sterile pre-filled syringes. This cost €38-million and has a capacity of 36 000 syringes an hour, produced to the highest quality standards. “This was very important for us,” he explained. “It improved our competitiveness. It was a very significant investment that we made.”

The plant’s heparin purification workshop was modernised, increasing its raw materials production capacity. This was a €3.4-million investment. “Once again, and all the time, improving the product,” he highlighted.

In 2016, packaging lines were improved, including the installation of new cartoning, labelling and thermoforming equipment, at a cost of €7.1-million. And, in April 2017, a new, €6.3-million quality control laboratory was commissioned.

“As a leading global player in speciality, branded and generic pharmaceuticals, Aspen has an extensive basket of products that provide treatment for a broad spectrum of acute and chronic conditions experienced through all stages of life,” noted Nicolaou. “In line with Aspen’s commercial, production and territorial strategies, it has identified thrombosis, anaesthetics, high-potency [products] and cytotoxics, and nutritionals as its focused therapeutic categories.” It has a strong presence in both developed and emerging market countries, with more than 60 established businesses in some 50 countries. The group supplies medicines and products to more than 150 countries.