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Aspen willing to alter production for Covid-19 needs

The pharmaceutical manufacturer urges people not to hoard cold and flu medications, saying its supply chain is robust


This article first appeared on Business Day


Aspen CEO - Stephen Saad

JSE-listed Aspen Pharmacare will adjust production schedules at its manufacturing plants to ensure supplies of critical medicines, such as antibiotics, should SA’s Covid-19 outbreak trigger a sudden increase in demand, according to CEO Stephen Saad.

There is no vaccine or cure for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, but there could well be a surge in demand for products such as antibiotics to treat secondary infections, he said. Aspen has also given the government an undertaking that it will alter its production plans to ensure continued supplies of other critical drugs, including those used for chronic conditions, should the need arise, he said.


“Aspen is in discussion with the government to make available, wherever feasible, its extensive SA oral solid and liquid pharmaceutical manufacturing operations for priority treatment of the SA public. This will entail adjusting some of Aspen’s production plans,” he said earlier this week.

In the fortnight since SA’s first case of Covid-19 was announced on March 5, the number of cases has rapidly risen to 150. President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster on Sunday in response to the growing outbreak.


Graphic: KAREN MOOLMAN


Aspen has seen a spike in demand for over-the-counter painkillers, and cold and flu preparations, triggered by panic buying among consumers, said Saad. He urged consumers not to stockpile medicines, saying there would be no shortage if everyone purchased their usual volumes.

“We have enough to go around. We have a lot of stock and our supply chain is robust.”

The restrictions on exports of pharmaceutical products and ingredients announced by the Indian government in early March had caused some concern, but were partly offset by the gradual resumption of manufacturing capacity in China, a key supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), he said. Local pharmaceutical manufacturers also depend heavily on APIs imported from India.

Chinese authorities extended the Lunar New Year holiday to try and control transmission of Covid-19, shuttering businesses and imposing tight restrictions on travel and movement. Factories have gradually begun to resume production as China has brought its epidemic under control.

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