Mumbai, India-based Cipla announced its intention to spend R1.3m ($90.7m) on the facility last week, explaining that the aim is to begin manufacturing biosimilars in 2018.
According to Cipla the facility will employ in-house proprietary manufacturing software developed by Cipla BioTec and single use processing technology. The firm also predicted the project will create 300 jobs.
Steven Lehrer, Director of Cipla BioTec said the decision to build in South Africa was about making biosimilar medicines available to patients who cannot currently afford them.
“Biosimilars remain too expensive for broad use outside of major western markets. Cipla BioTec aspires to transform the biosimilars market worldwide, by significantly increasing access with its strategy of one global product standard at affordable pricing.”
This was echoed by Cipla Medpro CEO Paul Miller, who said the firm wants to make biologics available to more “cancer patients through the production and supply of biosimilar medication at an affordable price.”
This idea fits with South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s recent comments about the role competition can play in lowering the price of biologic drugs in South Africa.
Motsoaledi likened the current high cost of the cancer treatment Herceptin (traztuzumab) - R500,000 ($34,911) a year – to the price of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) in 2000 and suggested that competition, local product and volume sales could make biologics more affordable.
Cipla also wants the facility to be able to supply other markets according to CEO Subhanu Saxena who said “the capacity of this factory will have the potential for a vast majority of the products to be exported.”
The firm did not respond to a request for comment.