South Africa-based drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited has announced talks to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine under license in South Africa, Yahoo!Finance reported.
Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited is a multinational South African holding company for pharmaceutical interests founded by South African pharma tycoon Stephen Saad. It is the largest drug company in Africa.
The South African company’s existing agreement with J&J involves importing the drug substance for the vaccine from J&J and packaging it in a “fill and finish” process at its South Africa plant. However, J&J ultimately determines to whom to sell the vaccines.
If the negotiations end successfully, Aspen Pharmacare will become Africa’s first major independent distribution base for a global vaccine against COVID-19.
Saad noted that a license would make a massive difference for Aspen’s COVID-19 response. “We would then sell to the end-customer…have a brand and then we also have control over where our product goes” and pricing, he said.
At the moment, J&J could take all the products the company manufactures because it is their product and sell them “…wherever they choose to. We have no say in that,” Saad said.
However, the contract also states that J&J will supply South Africa with 31 million vaccine doses. A separate agreement involves providing the African Union with 220 million doses, with a further 180-million option.
Saad’s statement follows an earlier announcement by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa on Sept. 2 that a COVID-19 vaccine shipment to Europe will be halted and returned to the continent.
Masiyiwa is a special envoy to the African Union for COVID-19 response. He coordinates Africa’s private-sector efforts to procure medical supplies to help fight the spread of COVID-19.