Aspen Pharmacare CEO Stephen Saad said the new sterile facility will manufacture advanced sterile medicines, including vaccines. Saad said the facility will ensure quality and security of both domestic and international supply. Aspen is the only manufacturing site in Africa selected by Johnson & Johnson to compound, fill, finish and package the Covid-19 vaccine.Aspen Pharmacare CEO Stephen Saad said the pharmaceutical giant remained committed to planting its flag in South Africa and on the continent as it meets the market’s pharmaceutical needs and helps fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saad spoke at Aspen Pharmacare’s Eastern Cape sterile manufacturing facility on Monday. His address comes amid jitters over the South African economy’s ability to recover from the pandemic, which battered growth and spiked unemployment in 2020.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was also in attendance at the facility, has been on the charm offensive with his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan as observers fear capital flight and a continued rise in unemployment.

Saad said Aspen invested in excess of R3 billion on the sterile manufacturing site, which he said was the single largest investment in the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa.

“The new sterile facility contains high-technology, state-of-the-art pharmaceutical equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture advanced sterile medicines, including vaccines. These investments demonstrate Aspen’s ongoing and enduring commitment to South Africa and the continent,” said Saad.

Saad said Aspen wanted to make a positive impact at a continental level as well, noting that Africa carries a disproportionately high disease burden. He said the investment in advanced pharmaceutical technology enables Aspen to improve access to treatment.

“This facility will enable Aspen to manufacture multiple and complex sterile products, such as vaccines and Aspen’s global anaesthetics products. It will also ensure quality and security of both domestic and international supply,” Saad said.

READ | Pharmaceutical giant Aspen keeps slashing debtHe said the facility will also meaningfully contribute to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through the collaboration announced between Aspen and Johnson & Johnson, Aspen is the only manufacturing site on the African continent and in the southern hemisphere selected by Johnson & Johnson to compound, fill, finish and package the Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.

He said the South African government had an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to deliver more than 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine to South Africans, with the first deliveries being made in April. The African Union will receive 400 million doses.