The South African government welcomes the announcement by the global pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, that it will produce insulin in South Africa.

The announcement was made in New York, United States of America, yesterday during an event addressed by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Danish Finance Minister Mr Nicoli Wammen, and South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel. The event was held on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly session attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa and other heads of state.

Minister Patel stated: “The collaboration between Novo Nordisk, a global leader in diabetic research and innovation, and Aspen, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, will facilitate the production of human insulin. Aspen will produce this under a contract with Novo Nordisk. We are optimistic that this partnership will significantly enhance access to insulin treatment not just in South Africa, but also across the continent.”

The contract will enable the local production of human insulin in South Africa through the conversion of insulin into finished dose vials. The collaboration will aim to supply over one million patients – 16 million doses in 2024 with a further upscaling to 4 million patients in 2026.

“The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that science and innovation can provide humanity with significant tools to fight disease and ill-health, enabling productive lives for people across the world. As populations expand, and lifestyles and diets change, we face a rising tide of non-communicable diseases. These diseases are chronic in nature and place a significant burden on communities and families, as well as on health systems, the fiscus, and economies,” said Minister Patel.

“This is an excellent first step that we hope will pave the way for both licensing and additional manufacturing opportunities, in areas such as sterile cartridge production and the production of high-demand and the new classes of drugs, such as the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is largely inaccessible at present to African patients,” he said.

The production of insulin will utilise Aspen’s sterile infrastructure in the city of Gqeberha in South Africa, including some of the infrastructure that was used for COVID-19 vaccine manufacture. Aspen will deploy 250 people for this production, which will commence in early 2024 and will reduce the transport-related carbon footprint by 68%.

Africa’s population of 1.4 billion people is a vast market and provides the commercial rationale for production in Africa for Africa and the world. Production on the African continent will reduce the growing pharmaceutical trade deficit that both SA and the continent experience – Africa imports 99% of its vaccines and around 80% of its pharmaceutical requirements.

Bongani Lukhele – Director: Media Relations
Tel: (012) 394 1643
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Issued by: The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)
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