Cipla to Begin Manufacturing COVID-19 Drug in South Africa


The South African affiliate of Indian pharma firm Cipla will begin manufacturing and distribution of remdesivir, a Covid-19 drug, in South Africa this month. The company’s priority is ensuring access to vulnerable populations in emerging markets.  


Cipla South Africa has been granted a license to manufacture and distribute remdesivir, an antiviral medicine that has been used in the treatment of Covid-19. Cipla struck an agreement with Gilead Sciences to distribute remdesivir in 127 countries, including South Africa along with several other emerging markets in sub-Sarahan Africa. 


South Africa is set to receive an initial batch of 35,000 vials of the drug that will be imported through a so-called Section 21 exemption. This exemption exists to allow the import of medicinal products which have not yet been approved by South Africa’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), but have been approved by regulators in other countries. Remdesivir was granted emergency US FDA authorisation in May 2020 after it was proven to help shorten recovery time in hospitalised Covid-19 patients.


Cipla South Africa, also known as Cipla Medpro, is owned by the Indian firm of the same name. It is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the nation and is the third largest by value. The company’s commitment to access for local patients has been demonstrated through its pioneering of affordable HIV and AIDS treatment in the region. Furthermore, Cipla developed a 3-in-1 tablet that treats both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV to increase adherence in HIV patients who are at a high risk of contracting TB. 


In line with its commitment to patient access, Cipla will ensure that the price of its remdesivir will be lower than or similar to prices in other emerging markets, facilitating access to this drug by those who need it most. The firm began the manufacturing of remdesivir in mid-July at its facility which is approved by the FDA, WHO and SAHPRA and is one of South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing plants.

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