Maputo — A factory producing anti-retroviral drugs, built in cooperation with Brazil, began its operations on Saturday, in the southern Mozambican city of Matola.
In the initial stage, the factory is packaging, storing, controlling the quality and distributing the anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine.
The nevirapine was manufactured in Brazil - drugs made entirely by the new factory are not expected to be available until the first half of 2013. The Mozambican company SMM (Mozambican Medicines Company), which is operating the factory, told reporters that the nevirapine was donated by the Brazilian government so that the factory can run tests and develop its operational capacities.
At the opening of the factory, the Brazilian Deputy President, Michel Temer, said "Today we see the start of production. Medicines that were made in Brazil will be packaged here in Mozambique. They will be certified and they will be distributed to Mozambicans".
Mozambique's Minister of Industry and Trade, Armando Inroga, made clear that this ceremony is not the inauguration of the factory but the launch of preliminary activities. "As from today, the factory will package anti-retroviral drugs produced in Brazil", he said. "These will pass through quality tests to gauge their effectiveness".
Inroga added that everything is being done to ensure that by the end of the year the factory can start producing its own anti-retrovirals.
Although the main focus of the factory is on drugs to fight HIV infection, it will also produce other drugs. The installed capacity is for the production of 371 million pills a year. Of these, six anti-retroviral drugs will account for 226 million pills, and 21 other generic medicines will account for the remaining 145 million.
Planning for the factory began with a promise made by the then Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on his visit to Mozambique in 2003. The Brazilian government has made available 23.5 million US dollars for the factory, and the Brazilian mining company Vale contributed a further 4.5 million dollars.
The expectations are that the factory will lead to an 80 per cent decline in Mozambique's need to import the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs. Indeed, after meeting the Mozambican demand, SMM hopes to export the pharmaceuticals produced to other African countries.
This is the first factory producing anti-retrovirals in Africa with entirely public capital.