Drugs for sale: Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad, who opened the company’s new R1bn facility in Port Elizabeth on Monday. Picture: SUPPLIED
Drugs for sale: Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad, who opened the company’s new R1bn facility in Port Elizabeth on Monday. Picture: SUPPLIED

An additional 500 jobs will be created by JSE-listed Aspen Pharmacare’s new R1bn facility in Port Elizabeth, where the pharmaceutical manufacturer will produce specialised products for chronic conditions, including certain cancers.

The official opening on Monday marked a shift for Aspen from commodity generics into specialised products with niche markets. The additional 500 jobs will add to the more than 2,000 jobs at the listed company’s flagship site in Port Elizabeth.

The group employs more than 10,000 people globally, 40% of whom are employed in SA. Aspen is also in the process of establishing a training academy to give its employees the opportunity to attain national accredited qualifications in pharmaceutical manufacture.

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

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

Target markets

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 to Europe, which was the first to give its regulatory approval.

Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad said at the opening of the 23,000m² facility that it would allow the group to expand its export of products.

"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 manufacturing operations constituting a significant portion of the installed pharmaceutical volume capacity."

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.

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip said the investment demonstrated the company’s confidence in the city’s future growth potential.

"There is also a strong indication that the company is looking into relocating some of its offshore manufacturing institutions to Nelson Mandela Bay, to consolidate its operations in the metro." Trollip said

ensorl@businesslive.co.za