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Roche Transfers Invirase Manufacturing Technology to African Generic Companies
  Roche Gives Africa Free HIV Drug-Making Know-How
Friday September 22nd, 2006 / 9h13
ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG (RHHBY) Friday said it will provide three African companies with the technical expertise to manufacture a generic version of its HIV medicine Invirase free of charge.
Roche, based in Basel, said it will transfer the technology to South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. (APN.JO), and to Kenyan firms Cosmos Ltd. and Universal Corp. Ltd.
The companies will be able to produce Invirase for supply throughout Kenya and South Africa in addition to any country within sub-Saharan Africa or defined as "least developed" by the U.N. This encompasses around 64% of all people living with HIV globally, Roche said.
Invirase, also known by the generic name saquinavir, is part of a group of drugs called protease inhibitors. They work by blocking the reproduction of the human immunodeficiency virus by disabling the crucial protease enzyme.
Invirase has been available since late 1995. The Friday agreements represent the first in a series of planned technology transfers unveiled in January.
As part of the deals, Roche has committed to work at the companies' manufacturing facilities in Kenya and South Africa and from its headquarters in Switzerland to undertake the technology transfers.
Roche's initial announcement in January has generated interest from 25 companies from 14 countries, including Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The Swiss company said it is working with individual applicants to assess potential production over the coming weeks.
"We welcome the commitment from these companies to produce their own quality generic versions of saquinavir," said Lembit Raego, coordinator of quality assurance and safety of medicines at the World Health Organization.
"The technical assistance from Roche should help strengthen and extend their manufacturing abilities for quality medicines," he said in a statement.
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