GlaxoSmithKline targets medicines at new African middle class


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The Independent Online

The drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline is ploughing £125m into Africa to tap into the growing middle-class demand for medicine on the continent.

Glaxo plans to meet the rising need for medicines to treat the increasingly wealthy populations across Africa.

It issued details of its planned expansion, driven by an increase in demand for treatments for chronic diseases such as heart and lung problems, diabetes and cancer as the region develops from only immediate cures for acute infections.

Speaking at the EU-Africa Business Summit in Brussels, Glaxo chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said the group would invest about £100m in the next five years to expand manufacturing in Nigeria and Kenya, as well as plans for up to five factories.

It is also looking into new factory locations in countries including Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia and will spend £25m to create the world’s first open-access research and development laboratory for non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases in Africa.

The latest figures from the World Bank show non-infectious and non-transmissible diseases will account for 46 per cent of all deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, up from  28 per cent in 2008.

A growing requirement for remedies for longer-term illnesses is a market that a number of pharmaceutical companies have noticed.

France’s Sanofi has also recently said Africa has promising growth.

Glaxo highlighted examples of where a medicine specifically created for the region would benefit the market.

It said research had shown that an above-average number of Africans with high blood pressure appear to be resistant to medical treatment, while there is also a high prevalence of aggressive breast cancer in younger women.

Glaxo also said it would help to fund 25 academic chairs at African universities and would increase support for community health worker training.

At present, Glaxo has only a small sub-Saharan African business making drugs in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa with 1,500 staff and generating about £500m of sales a year. But it now plans to increase this significantly with new research and development investment over the next five years.

Mr Witty has been dedicated to Glaxo’s emerging markets’ expansion. Last month the company took control of  its consumer healthcare unit in Indonesia, has increased  its stake in local units in India and remains committed to China despite issues of bribery allegations.