The world's second-largest drug maker, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is making India a major manufacturing hub for its free global drug supply to treat neglected diseases.
GSK would make additional investments in India and South Africa to increase production of anti-parasite drug albendazole to one billion tablets a year from 2012, Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of GSK, said in a tele-conference call from Japan.
GSK supplies about 600 million tablets a year. India produces half of these pills, while the rest comes from GSK's factory at Cape Town in South Africa. The drug is used to treat children at risk of intestinal worm schistosomiasis (bilharzia).
This would cost GSK an additional £12 million (Rs 84 crore) a year, said Witty. He said they needed regulatory approvals to supply albendazole from India, as their Indian production was only meant for use inside the country.
In March, Witty inaugurated a new albendazole manufacturing facility at Nashik in Maharashtra, at an investment of Rs 1.5 crore to supply 300 million treatments a year. The facility is part of a combination treatment used within the World Health Organization's (WHO's) global programme to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF).
Worldwide, more than 1.3 billion people live at risk of disability and disfigurement caused by LF, one-third of those at risk live in India. GSK supplies its entire production from the Nashik facility for the LF eradication programme in India.
Witty said GSK was developing a vaccine against malaria and the final phase of clinical trials were on in Africa.
Global drug makers supply select off-patent drugs as charity to various WHO programmes against neglected diseases. This includes Novartis' donation of clofazimine treatment for leprosy and its complications, Sanofi-Aventis' commitment against sleeping sickness elimination and Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis for the next five years, Bayer's plans to give drugs for treating African sleeping sickness and Chagas disease, Eisai Pharma's free drug supply of diethylcarbamazine to cure LF and Johnson & Johnson's recent announcement to donate mebendazole for treating intestinal worms in children.