JSE-listed pharmaceutical manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare officially opened a R1bn high-containment facility in Port Elizabeth, on Monday.

Initial production in the facility is planned for Alkeran, Leukeran and Purinethol (for the treatment of late-stage cancers), Imuran (for the prevention of organ tissue rejection in liver and kidney transplants as well as treatment of certain autoimmune diseases) and Benztropine (for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease).

At full capacity, the high-containment facility is expected to produce about 3.6-billion tablets annually and package about 3-million bottles per month.

It is anticipated that about 95% of these new products will be exported to target markets in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The first exports are expected to be destined for Europe, which was the first to give its regulatory approval.

The 23,000m² facility has been audited by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and the German regulator, Landesamt für soziale Dienste des Landes Schleswig-Holstein, both of which have granted the requested approval.

Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad said at the opening that the facility would allow the group to expand its exports of products used for rare conditions.

"Aspen continues its evolution into a global specialty manufacturer of niche products requiring complex technologies. The high-potency manufacturing facility we are opening today represents such complex technologies," he said.

"The commissioning of this facility further cements Aspen’s position as the largest private investor in the South African pharmaceutical industry, with its current manufacturing operations constituting a significant portion of the installed pharmaceutical volume capacity in our country.

"Aspen’s ongoing investment in its South African manufacturing sites bolsters the introduction of new technologies, the addition of skilled employment opportunities and the enhancement of our country’s export capability."

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies officiated at the opening, saying Aspen’s expansion into the high-potency facility would enable it to manufacture products not previously produced locally and also add to its export capacity.

The new facility will create an additional 500 jobs adding to the more than 2,000 jobs at Aspen’s flagship site in Port Elizabeth. The group employs more than 10,000 people globally, 40% of whom are employed in SA.

Aspen is in the process of establishing a training academy to give its employees the opportunity to attain national accredited qualifications in pharmaceutical manufacture.