Pharmaniaga is to open the country's first halal insulin fill and finish facility.
Malaysia's largest listed pharmaceutical company, Pharmaniaga Berhad, is to invest $14 million in a halal insulin facility, slated to open in 2025.
It is a needed move, with no halal certified facility operating in the country, despite rising numbers of diabetics in Malaysia. Worldwide, some 537 million adults (20-79 years) live with diabetes, costing an estimated $966 billion in health expenditure – a 316% increase over the last 15 years, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
However, insulin, the bedrock of diabetes treatment, is still out of reach for many living with the disease. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, three multinational companies (Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi) control more than 90% of the insulin market, leaving little space for smaller companies to compete for insulin sales.
“The scientists who discovered insulin 100 years ago refused to profit from their discovery and sold the patent for just one (US) dollar,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, to the press. “Unfortunately, that gesture of solidarity has been overtaken by a multi-billion-dollar business that has created vast access gaps.”
While three in four people affected by Type 2 diabetes live in countries outside of North America and Europe, they account for less than 40% of the revenue from insulin sales, according to the WHO.
Pharmaniaga Berhad intends to close this gap in a market worth over $10 billion in import value in 2020. Announcing its third-quarter results, the firm revealed plans for Malaysia's first halal insulin fill and finish facility.
Producing pre-filled insulin cartridges in the form of self-administered pens, the manufacturing facility will be located at the Selangor-based high-tech plant Pharmaniaga LifeScience.
The plant is expected to be ready in 2025. It will meet the needs of treating non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that currently contribute 67% of premature deaths and 70% of overall Malaysia’s health burden, according to Pharmaniaga.
NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, result from genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. The main types are cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, strokes), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (asthma) and diabetes.
“This plan will complement the group's strong market presence in the cardiovascular and basic diabetic range,” said Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope, the Managing Director of Pharmaniaga Group, in a press release.
Halal manufacturing and technology are one of the Pharmaniaga’s strategic growth pillars. The company also aims to establish the world’s first halal vaccine manufacturing facility.
Sales of 22.4 million doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the private sector drove Pharmaniaga’s third-quarter financial performance.
For the three months ending September 2021, the group recorded Ringitt (RM) 2.1 billion ($496.3 million) in revenue, compared to RM625 million ($147.7 million) in the previous year’s corresponding quarter.
For the nine months period under review, Pharmaniaga’s revenue grew by 95% to RM4.1 billion ($968.9 million) compared to the same period last year.
Pharmaniaga runs six manufacturing plants in Peninsular Malaysia and one in Indonesia. Thirty-three of the 38 logistics and distribution centres are located in Indonesia. The Indonesia division registered a profit of RM1.3 million ($307,215) in the third quarter, a positive turnaround compared with a deficit of RM2.4 million ($567,166) the year before.
In general, the outlook for the vaccine business is positive. “The signs are good for us to remain the Health Ministry’s logistics and distribution partner beyond 2024,” said Eusope about negotiations with the government.
At the end of November, Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad announced financing facilities of RM360 million ($85 million) to Pharmaniaga and Selgate Healthcare Sdn Bhd for the procurement, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in support of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme.
Pharmaniaga participates in the Sinovac global clinical trial for children aged three to 11 years old in collaboration with the Health Ministry.
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