Novo Nordisk contracts with Aspen in South Africa to produce insulin for African countries


Written by Maggie Fick

LONDON (Reuters) – Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk said on Tuesday it had contracted Aspen Pharmacare to produce human insulin on its behalf in South Africa for export to African countries through a low-cost government tender system.

Announcing the deal on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Novo said the contract would result in the production of 16 million vials of insulin next year, representing its “expanded commitment” to improving people’s access to life-saving insulin. Living with diabetes in Africa.

The amount Aspen will produce next year under the contract is equivalent to the annual consumption of 1.1 million people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Novo said, adding that it currently reaches 500,000 people with diabetes across sub-Saharan Africa.

She added that by 2026, the amount of insulin produced will equal the annual consumption of 4.1 million people across the continent.

“Diabetes is basically a tragedy, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” Catherine DiBona, Novo’s vice president of global public affairs and sustainability, said in an interview. She cited the company’s estimate that 60 million people globally need insulin but do not have access to it.

Novo became Europe’s most valuable company earlier this month thanks to booming sales of obesity and type 2 diabetes drugs. Its market capitalization is currently about $420 billion.

Insulin produced in Aspen will be distributed to health authorities and nongovernmental organizations through a bidding system at a guaranteed cap price of $3 per vial, Novo said. No further financial details about the contract were revealed.

The deal could help Aspen, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical maker, benefit from the expanded manufacturing capacity it built during the Covid-19 pandemic. Aspen invested about $540 million to expand its facilities in South Africa and France, but requests for its vaccine did not materialize.

Aspen’s CEO told Reuters last month, after the company announced that it had recently concluded agreements with three international companies to produce its medicines in its French facility, that this led to losses in increased capacity.

DiBona said Novo chose Aspen as its partner because of its credibility as a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick, Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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