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Malawi to manufacture antiretroviral drugs with $390 factory

posted 10 Apr 2011, 12:36 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Apr 2011, 12:38 ]

Malawians living with HIV/Aids welcome government plans to construct its own 390 million US dollar pharmaceutical plant to manufacture antiretroviral drugs.

Malawi will start manufacturing its own antiretroviral drugs with a new 390 million US dollar production plant in the capital commercial capital of the country, Blantyre.

Manufacturing the drugs, used to treat HIV and AIDS, instead of importing them will bring down the cost of treatment. Something the country's 1 million people living with HIV and AIDs say have strongly welcomed.

Twenty five years ago, being diagnosed with the disease was considered a death sentence with the price of treating it too high for many of Malawi's poorest citizens.

Now with more advanced treatment offered free or at low prices, chances of leading a normal life are much higher.

Macloud Pingadza, who lost a relative to AIDS says the building of the factory shows how far the country has come in the fight against the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

"It is good news to hear that Malawi will have its own ARV factory. It is something that will enable more people on the drug to access it with ease. I remember the time when only those with money were able to buy the drug. Then came a time when government was offering for free. But now with our factory, it will really bring hope to people," said Pingadza.

Construction of the plant, which has been partly funded with money from donor countries, will start in September with the first batch of medicines expected to be produced in 2013.

The Indian pharmaceutical company Strides Arcolab Limited will manufacture the drugs.

HIV and AIDS specialist Eddie Manda sees patients at the capital's Ndirande Health Centre where people receive testing, treatment and counseling for free.

He says one of the major problems they face is drug shortages, something the factory will change.

"It will be just a matter of arranging logistics, ordering the drugs and delivering to our patients. And the coming in of this plant will improve the quality of our services as far as management of ART (anti-retroviral treatment) is concerned because we will have a wide range of choice," said Manda.

Malawi has increased the number of those receiving ARVs to about 250,000 compared to a mere 80,000 in 2008.

While the country still has one of the highest prevalence rates among adults in the world, numbers have dropped from 24 percent of the population in 1998 to 12 percent in 2010. A drop attributed to the increased availability of ARVs and a government awareness and education campaign.

One recipient of government funded ARV's is Susan Nyanga. She says bringing down the cost of supplying HIV and AIDs drugs will benefit health providers as much as patients.

"This will help government to reduce its spending on these drugs. As such, most of use will be able to access these drugs anytime and government will look at developing other areas," he said.

Malawi will join other African countries including Uganda, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa already producing their own ARV medication.