Egypt to Produce Insulin for Africa in New Collaboration with Eli Lilly
Dr Loyce Pace, with WHO’s Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Africa CDC’s Dr Jean Kaseya and EVA Pharma CEO Riad Armanious.

GENEVA – Within months, insulin manufactured in Egypt will be available for distribution in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to a collaboration between Eli Lilly and a local manufacturer that aims to produce one million doses of insulin by 2030.

Eli Lilly is providing Egypt’s EVA Pharma with the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) of insulin at a “significantly reduced price” to enable cheaper, faster production of the life-saving medication that is used to treat diabetes, one of the fastest-growing health problems on the continent.

Eli Lilly will also provide a pro-bono technology transfer to enable EVA Pharma to formulate, fill and finish insulin vials and cartridges as part of its global commitment to enable 30 million insulin doses by 2030.

Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO and Dr Jean Kaseya, Africa CDC

Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Non-communicable Disease (NCD) Programme at the World Health Organization (WHO), welcomed the initiative, which was announced at a special event on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

“If we can control diabetes, we can reach the SDG targets on NCDs,” said Mikkelsen. “We need to focus on early diagnosis and treatment and universal health coverage as 74% of global deaths are due to NCDs.”

An estimated 3-4 million Africans are living with diabetes today – although less than 50% are aware of their status,” said Eli Lilly’s Leigh Ann Pusey, speaking at another event later on Monday. 

However, if current projections hold, some 54 million Africans are likely to suffer from diabetes by 2045,  “That’s a 144% increase,” she said,  representing the largest projected increase in diabetes rates globally, with Egypt  particularly affected.

EVA Pharma CEO Riad Armanious

EVA Pharma CEO Riad Armanious said that his company had signed the agreement with Eli Lilly in December and his company had been building the manufacturing capacity to make insulin over the past five months.

“We celebrating the completion of the biologics facility next week, then we will need regulatory approval but we expect to start manufacturing before the end of the year,” Armanious told Health Policy Watch.

Voicing his support for the initiative, Dr Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that his father had died of diabetes because he could not get insulin.

“Only 30% of the therapeutics used in Africa are produced on the continent,” said Kaseya, adding that he was convening a meeting of local manufacturing with African leaders in July. 

Dr Loyce Pace, US Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services, said that people in the US also faced challenges getting access to insulin and that her country was committed to being a “real partner” in improving the global supply of insulin.

Pace revealed that her own mother-in-law had died of diabetes in The Gambia because she was unable to get insulin.

Image Credits: WHO.

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