New plant making ARV drugs opens in Lagos

NIGERIA: New plant making ARV drugs opens in Lagos


Stella Obasanjo - opened plant for AIDS drugs

LAGOS, 30 Jul 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - A new plant to manufacture anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs for people living with AIDS has opened in Nigeria, thanks to an iniative by Nigerian health professionals working in the United States.

Archy Pharmaceuticals Company is the second company to produce ARV drugs in Nigeria.

Its brand new plant on the outskirts of Lagos was formally opened by Stella Obasanjo, the wife of President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday.

Last year, Ranbaxy Nigeria, the subsidiary of an Indian company, began to manufacture generic ARV treatments for children in the country.

Chrijoke Ofomata, the managing director of Archy Pharmaceuticals, said the new factory would provide cheaper medicines for millions of Nigerians and other Africans afflicted by the AIDS pandemic.

The company, he said, would manufacture "branded generics and make them affordable to Nigerians and other people in Africa".

The BBC quoted Ofomata as saying that Archy Pharmaceuticals would begin exporting ARV drugs, which can improve the quality of life of people living with AIDS, in about two years.

Ofomata said the company was set up by a group of Nigerian health professionals working in the United States, who were determined to help fight the spread of AIDS.

Nigeria, with an officially estimated population of 126 million, has the third largest number of people living with HIV anywhere in the world.

Health experts reckon that about one million Nigerians would benefit from ARV treatment, which does not cure AIDS but can prolong life expectancy and reduce suffering.

Some 15,000 people, including 5,000 children, are supposed to get subsidised drugs under a Nigerian government programme launched two years ago. But the project has so far run in fits and starts as a result of poor organisation.

HIV/AIDS activists welcomed the creation of Archy Pharmaceuticals.

"People like me living with HIV are grateful a group of Nigerians came together to meet our urgent need for these drugs," said Patience Adigun of AIDS Alliance Nigeria, which campaigns for the rights of people living with the virus.

"We only hope it is also going to be relatively cheap," she told PlusNews.

More than 70 percent of Nigeria's population live on less than one dollar a day and most people in the country who are infected with HIV cannot afford to buy the drugs they need to treat the condition.

The latest government survey of women tested for HIV at ante-natal clinics, showed that 5.0 percent of Nigeria’s population was infected by the virus in 2003. It predicted that infection rates would rise over the next five years.

Gabon also revealed plans to produce anti-retroviral drugs this week in the capital Libreville with the technical support of Brazil, a major producer of generic ARV treatments.

The deal was announced on Wednesday during a visit to Gabon by Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

No details were released about when the new plant would be set up or how much it would cost.

Oil-rich Gabon has a population of just 1.2 million, but it has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in West Africa, estimated by the local authorites last year at 8.1 percent.

Since April, the Gabonese government has made subsidised ARV therapy available at a cost of between US $10 and US $20 per month. About 3,000 people currently benefit from the programme.


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