Aspen launches anaesthetics production line

The use of general anaesthetics has increased since the outset of the pandemic, as they are needed to support COVID-19 patients on ventilators in intensive care units.

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen on Monday opened a world-leading anaesthetics production line that will guarantee local supply and meet growing global coronavirus-linked demand for the drugs.

The use of general anaesthetics has increased since the outset of the pandemic, as they are needed to support COVID-19 patients on ventilators in intensive care units.

Aspen's factory in the southern city of Gqeberha has been turned into "a crucial anaesthetics hub" as "one of the world's largest general anaesthetics production lines", Aspen chief executive Stephen Saad said in a statement.

The Durban-based company has invested more than three billion rand ($204 million) in the facility, making it the single largest investment in the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa -- which had until now relied on imported anaesthetics.

While the bulk of production will be exported globally, the company will also guarantee local security of supply, said South African Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel, cited in the same statement.

It was installed at the same facility where Aspen started producing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in July.

The company handles the final stages of the jabs' manufacturing known as the "fill and finish process".

Pharma giants BioNTech and Pfizer have since also clinched similar vaccine production deals with South Africa's Biovac.

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