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18 May, 2023 17:55

South Africa to produce HIV-prevention drug

Indian firm Cipla Limited will produce an affordable version of the product at its plants in Benoni or Durban
South Africa to produce HIV-prevention drug

South Africa is set to become a manufacturing hub for an affordable version of the innovative HIV-prevention drug CAP-LA. The move is expected to provide millions of people with access to the drug in a region that the World Health Organization (WHO) says accounts for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections globally.

The drug, cabotegravir long-acting (LA), will be produced by Cipla Limited, an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company, at its plants in Benoni or Durban, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Last year, the WHO described CAB-LA as a “safe and highly effective prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.” The drug is said to block HIV from entering cells, massively reducing the risk of infection, and has been proven by research to reduce the chances of contracting the virus through sex.

The developers of the drug, Viiv Healthcare and the United Nations-backed public health organization Medicines Patent Pool, said sublicense agreements to produce the generic version were signed with Aurobindo, Cipla, and Viatris in March.

In a statement on its website at the time, the MPP said the selected manufacturers will be able to develop and supply generic versions in 90 countries “subject to required regulatory approvals being obtained.

The drug is provided as an injection administered six times per year and is initiated with a single 600mg (3ml) jab given one month apart for two consecutive months, according to the MPP. However, a person must have a negative HIV-1 test prior to receiving it.

In South Africa, ViiV Healthcare holds the patent for CAB-LA until 2031, limiting competition. Viiv also announced that it has received regulatory approval for use of the drug in the United States, Australia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Malawi for at-risk adults and adolescents.