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Senegal to host new company for Generic Drugs in Africa

January 28, 2014

Africa will soon have unbridled access to generic drugs for some of the most common ailments plaguing the continent with a daring move by some young Africans to set up a specialized company in Senegal. Led by Dr Ousmane Diouf, the project known as Sub-Saharan Generics intends to give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. Educated in some of the best Universities in Europe and with stints in prestigious pharmaceutical companies, the Team   is not just  out for business but also has the strong desire to give back to Africa. Herman Brodie. working as consultant for the project says it will manufacture “high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices.” Brodie says the interview has already been registered with a management team in place  and there are expectations that with the right partners, production should start by 2015. First in your own word words can you give us a background into Sub-Saharan Generics? If you were a seasoned executive in the pharmaceutical industry and you wanted to give something back to your native Senegal, what would you do? If you had earned a Master’s Degree in Drug Design and a PhD in Organic & Medicinal Chemistry, what is the greatest contribution could you make, not only to your home country, but to the entire sub-Saharan region? Some might say support research towards a cure for HIV or some other cutting edge development, but Dr Ousmane Diouf would disagree. To help the maximum number of people using hard-to-come-by capital resources, it would be better to simply give Africans access to cheap and safe treatments for their most common ailments. The project Sub-Saharan Generics intends to do just that. It will manufacture high-quality generic drugs locally to treat the five most common complaints – diabetes, tuberculosis, pain, malaria and hypertension – and sell them at ethical prices. Why the focus on the five diseases you have in mind and how prevalent are they in Africa? Generic drugs exist for all of these ailments and they can be manufactured cheaply. In the developed world they are so readily available most people take them for granted. In sub-Saharan Africa however, the cost is sometimes so prohibitive the sick often have to make the choice between buying food and buying essential medicines. Even when they are able to pay, supply disruptions sometimes mean treatments have to be delayed or interrupted. Alternatively, people rely on drugs from informal distribution channels, many of which are counterfeit and potentially dangerous. In 2000 it was estimated that some 7.5 million adults between the ages of 20 and 79 suffered from diabetes. This figure is much higher now of course and is set to double over the next 25 years. The prevalence of hypertension is also growing rapidly because of changing lifestyles and diets on the African continent. In the case of malaria, it is estimated that 90 percent of the annual 300 million acute cases worldwide, and the more than one million deaths, occur in Africa. Malaria is also responsible for a fifth of all child deaths on the continent, and approximately 200,000 newborns die each year because of infection during pregnancy. Similarly shocking are the numbers on tuberculosis: a quarter of the almost 10 million cases globally occur in Africa. Finally, who in the developed world can imagine not having access to basic painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin? So at what stage is Sub Saharan Generics now? Have you started producing the requisite medical products and if not, when should people expect to start using your drugs? S2G was registered as a limited company in Senegal in July 2013 and has already assembled a management team led by Dr Diouf. It is still in the process of raising capital from would-be investors, but already enjoys the support and endorsement of some key strategic actors including the country’s sovereign wealth fund and the Senegalese government. It has also acquired a plot of land at new industrial development just outside Dakar and will shortly begin construction of the manufacturing installation. Drug production is expected to begin in 2015. How different are your drugs expected to be from the ones that are produced by western pharmaceutical companies? No different. This is precisely the point. S2G drugs will be manufactured to the same exacting standards as those sold and consumed in Europe and in the US with respect to the cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products, and the World Health Organisation. What has been the reaction of the public to your initiatives? So far, only potential investors and key regional actors have been exposed to the project. The response, however, has been universally enthusiastic. Even investors who for reasons of geographical or sectorial constraints have not been able to commit capital to the project, have recognized the necessity and the merit of S2G’s ambitions. About your team or the brains behind this initiative, may we have an idea about the expertise you have or that is there to help in the success of the project? The management team is composed of experienced pharmaceutical industry professionals in the functions of R&D, finance, logistics, market research and technical analysis. Each member brings more than 20 years of experience to their respective domain and has been recruited from senior management positions. Collectively, they have considerable experience of drug design and production, and of construction and management of a drug production facility. Dr. Ousmane Diouf, Director of the Steering Committee and future President of the structure. Boumy Mr Gueye, Head of Buildings Design in compliance with cGMP and Site Director, Conakry, Guinea Mr Abdou Diagne, Business Analyst, Recruitment Officer, Human Resources Director and Chief Financial Officer Mr Cheikh Ahmadou Tidiane Diouf, Director Key Accounts, Project Manager Dr. Moustapha Diawara, Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jerome Theobald, Director of Strategy and Development Dr. Pierre-Yves Leroy, Technical and Scientific Director Dr. Birane Ba, Director of Marketing and Communications Mr Mamadou Sow, Chairman of the Supervisory Board  In what way do you intend to strike a balance between the economic realities of the continent where many cannot afford drugs and profit incentives that drive business or at least to sustain your project? [caption id="attachment_8159" align="alignright" width="85"]Herman Brodie Herman Brodie[/caption] The ‘economic realities’ you mention include severe poverty. Millions of people in the region live on less than one US-dollar per day. And even though, the vast majority of S2G’s output will be sold to the public sector, healthcare budgets are stretched in Africa in the same way as they are elsewhere in the world. The key, therefore, is to produce essential drugs more cheaply. In the price of a generic drug imported from a developed economy, labor probably accounts for up 80 per cent of the manufacturing costs. In Africa these labor costs are far lower, allowing for profitable production even with much lower retail prices. Also, we believe pharmaceutical companies need to be more intelligent with the packaging when operating in sub-Saharan Africa in order keep costs low. One way is to make sure that the package contains no more of the drug than the patient actually needs to consume. As unfortunate as it is, many African governments trivialize health issues, from budgets, to infrastructure, training of Doctors and so on, what is the situation like in Senegal where the project is located, what has been the response of the government? We do not believe this statement applies to Senegal. The current government has made the implementation of universal healthcare a major political goal. For under-5s and over-65s this is already a reality. Similarly, out of concern for public health, some drugs, like those for the treatment of tuberculosis, are already purchased centrally and distributed freely to the population. On the education front, the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar specializes in Pharmacology and is recognized in the West African region as a center of competence. Africa, well some parts of Africa are living through very exciting times and projects like yours are part of the reason people are growing increasingly confident, what does the continent need to get that break through, what needs to be to be done so that some of the genius of the Africans like you and others can be adequately put to the service of development? Africa simply needs more success stories. Who are some of the other partners that Sub Saharan Generics is working with? S2G already has the financial support of the sovereign wealth fund (FONSIS), the sovereign loan guarantee fund (FONGIP)   as well as a number of domestic institutional investors. Among these are ASKIA Assurance Senegal and CNART Assurances (Compagnie Nationale d’Assurance et de Réassurance des Transporteurs), both insurance companies; and CSTT-AO (Compagnie Sénégalaise de Transport Transatlantique – Afrique de l’Ouest), a transport and logistics company. LOCAFRIQUE, a company that specializes in financing agricultural equipment, will support the venture in kind through the favorable conditions for leasing some of the equipment. The future suppliers of active ingredients for S2G’s drugs will include Navasep Synthesis (France), Axyntis (France), and Amyris (USA).]]>

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