Tanzania firm to start manufacturing Aids drugs

A Tanzanian company has, with technological assistance from Thailand, started manufacturing antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries said the drug will only be available at selected outlets in the country.

The firm’s chief executive officer Ramadhani Madabida told The EastAfrican that the drug, which was launched last week, will be ’’competitively priced.’’

’’But since we are cautious and want to avoid abuse, the drugs will only be available at selected facilities. It is a highly controlled drug therefore, we have to be careful about its distribution,” said Mr Madabida.

He said the government had already registered the drug and trials were undertaken last January. ’’I am optimistic that our locally produced ARVs will be accessible to many HIV/Aids patients who do not have accesses to the drugs due to their high cost,’’he said.

Mr Madabida added that in order to guarantee that the company continues to manufacture quality drugs it had engaged Thai experts to help in the skills transfer.

The drug company has entered into an agreement with Thailand and other international partners to develop a curriculum on African knowledge and utilisation of traditional medicine.

The partners include the Faculty of Oriental Medicine at the University of Rangist in Thailand, the School of Pharmacy at the Institute of Traditional Medicine of Tanzania’s Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences and the National Institute for Medical Research.

Thailand started manufacturing the drugs in Bangkok in the early 1990s when imported ARVs cost some Tsh800,000 ($800) in Tanzania.

’’This will be brought down to less than $25 per month per patient once the drug enters the market,’’ said Mr Madabida.

Tanzania-Thailand co-operation in the medical field started in 2001 when Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries, using Thai technology and expertise, produced Thaitanzunate, a new anti-malarial drug ultimately launched in 2003.

Mr Madabida said that a research scientist and former head of research and development at the Royal Thailand Research Institute, Dr Krisana Kraisintu, helped the Tanzania drug maker in sourcing of raw materials from China.

’’We have a five-year contract to buy the raw materials from China at reasonable prices and this will in turn help us to pass on the benefit to users of the ARVs,’’ said Mr Madabida.

The first phase in the project will be for adults, while children will be covered in the second phase. The plant has the capacity to manufacture drugs for 100,000 people per month.

In addition to the manufacture of the ARVs, Thailand has agreed to co-operate with Tanzania to transfer knowledge and support the production of other drugs, including drugs for treating malaria and TB.

According to Mr Madabida, the ARV project is also supported in collaboration with a German medical organisation, Action Medeor.

With a population of 37.6 million and 1.6 million of these already infected with the virus, Tanzania’s death rate is expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2010, leading to a drop in life expectancy from 56 years to 47 years.

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