Novo Nordisk contracts Aspen to produce insulin for Africa
Output in 2024 will amount to the annual consumption of 1.1-million people with type 1 and 2 diabetes
Novo Nordisk has contracted Aspen Pharmacare to produce human insulin on its behalf in SA for export to African countries through a low-cost government tender system, the Danish drugmaker said on Tuesday.
Announcing the deal on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Novo said the contract will lead to the production of 16-million vials of insulin next year, marking its “expanded commitment” to improving access to the life-saving drug for people on the continent living with diabetes.
Novo said the amount Aspen will produce next year under the contract equates to the annual consumption of 1.1-million people with type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Novo reaches 500,000 people with the disease across Sub-Saharan Africa and said the amount of insulin produced will equate to the yearly consumption of 4.1-million people across the continent by 2026.
“Especially in lower- and middle-income countries, diabetes is fundamentally a tragedy,” said Katrine DiBona, Novo’s corporate vice-president for global public affairs and sustainability. The company estimates that 60-million people globally need insulin, but cannot access it.
Novo became Europe’s most valuable company earlier this month on booming sales of its obesity and type 2 diabetes drugs. It has a market capitalisation of about $420bn (about R8-trillion).
The Aspen-produced insulin will be distributed to health authorities and non-governmental organisations through a tender system, with a guaranteed ceiling price of $3 (about R57) per vial, said Novo. It didn’t release further financial details about the contract.
The deal could help Aspen, Africa’s biggest drugmaker, use the expanded manufacturing capacity it built during the Covid-19 pandemic. Aspen invested about R10bn to expand facilities in SA and France, but orders for its vaccine failed to materialise.
That left the increased capacities unprofitable, Aspen CEO Stephen Saad said last month after the company announced it had secured agreements with three global companies to produce their drugs at its French facility.
Novo chose Aspen as its partner due to its credibility as a drug manufacturer, DiBona said.
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