Over a long period of time, Kenya has been importing ARVs. A factory in Kiambu has produced the first commercial ARVs made in Kenya, conforming to the stringent standards set by the World Health Organisation.
Universal Corporation produced the three million tablets of ARVS this week.
Firm CEO Perviz Dhanani said the factory received the final certification from the WHO to begin commercial production in November last year.
“We have the capacity to produce one million tablets a day. The WHO certification means we can receive orders from governments and global agencies such as Unicef and Global Fund.
Universal becomes the first drugs company in Kenya to commercially produce ARVs.
It was bought by Bangalore-based Pharma Strides Shasun, who acquired 51 per cent majority stake for Sh1.1 billion in 2016.
Universal produces 100 different pharmaceutical products sold in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
Pharmacy and Poisons Board CEO Dr Fred Siyoi said local production of drugs was better because the quality was closely monitored by regulatory institutions such as the PPB.
“Other than creating employment, it also builds the capacity of the local pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
The first batch of ARVs by Universal is a combination of Nevirapine, Lamivudine, and Zidovudine.
“The order is for Cote d’Ivoire,” Dhanani said.
Today, Kenya spends about Sh38 billion annually on HIV treatments at about Sh1,800 per patient per month.
Dhanani said local producers find it difficult to get orders for ARVs because Global Fund and the US Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids Relief are the main financiers and prefer to source cheaply from India.
However, he said the factory has also received other necessary approvals to supply drugs bought through GF and Pepfar funds.
He made the announcement on Monday week when Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki visited the factory in Kikuyu Town.
The CS said the government is considering giving incentives to local pharmaceutical companies to enhance their capacity to manufacture essential drugs to meet the local demand for the Universal Health Coverage.
Kariuki said the government will look at taxation to procure more commodities from local companies up from the current 40 per cent.
Kenya has a total of 34 drugs manufacturers, who mostly supply to East and Central African countries.
“This will boost the capacity of local manufacturers and create more employment opportunities for the economy and facilitate technology and skills transfer,” the CS said.
She was accompanied by Chief Administrative Secretary Dr. Rashid Aman, PPB boss Dr Siyoi and Kemsa CEO Dr Jonah Manjari, among others.
In Africa, only a few countries manufacture ARVs because of competition from cheap generics sourced from India.
Manufacturing in Africa for Africa ensures improved speed to market of WHO quality-assured medicines because of proximity to the patients.