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Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting HIV and Malaria in Uganda: Quality Chemical Industries produces low-cost antiretroviral drugs while spurring local manufacturing

By Daniel Jensen

QCI's drugs fight malaria at a much lower cost than imported pharmaceuticals. Photo: US Army Africa (flickr)

Impact investors wondering where the big money is should look no farther than Quality Chemical Industries, whose multi-million dollar headquarters produces low-cost antiretroviral drugs while spurring local manufacturing.

A June Financial Times article highlights the impressive changes that have occurred since the $32 million facility opened in 2007:

QCI [brought] down the cost of a pack of 24 malaria tablets from $5 to $1.50, greatly increasing access to these vital medicines. The effects have been dramatic, and death rates from malaria in Uganda have dropped from 400 to 200 people per day. … Over the past five years, the company has helped to increase the number of patients receiving [antiretroviral] treatment from 140,000 to around 500,000.

The company is doing so well that it has announced it will build a second $55 million office in Uganda with hopes of exporting its drugs to other east African countries.

However, growth has been held back by government subsidies of more expensive, imported drugs. While CEO Emmanuel Katongole believes profit shouldn’t override social impact, he wants to end the subsidies and grow a local pharmaceutical industry in Uganda.

In fact, a local solution may soon be the only solution. According to the company’s website, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) free trade agreement will cause the price of medication imported from India to skyrocket, while countries like Uganda will be allowed to continue producing the same drugs without paying for intellectual property rights. For Katongole, a potential health crisis creates a business opportunity: If the government and NGOs have to pay more for Indian generics, there will be more demand for his cheaper medications.

Read more about Quality Chemical Industries here.


Editor's note: this post was originally published on Global Envision. It is republished with permission.


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