Pharmaniaga hopes to distribute vaccine by 1Q21

The vaccine will be distributed once it complies with NPRA’s statutory requirements


PHARMANIAGA Bhd hopes to begin distributing the Covid-19 vaccine, which is currently undergoing clinical trials internationally, in Malaysia by the first or second quarter of 2021 (2Q21), its acting MD Mohamed Iqbal Abdul Rahman (picture) said.

The vaccine will be distributed once it complies with the statutory requirements under the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), which regulates the drug industry. The industry standards also abide by the World Health Organisation’s regulations.

“Most of them (vaccine developers) have announced that they will be able to come out with a vaccine by the end of the year,” Mohamed Iqbal said.

He believes the developers will support local consumption before offering the drug to the rest of the world.

“That’s why it is said, there are high chances the vaccine will come to Malaysia most likely in 1Q21.

“Once it comes to Malaysia, we can bottle and send it out almost immediately. Our plant is ready,” he told reporters at a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

China, India, Russia, Indonesia and the US are among the nations working on producing the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, with researchers from these countries reportedly aiming to have a cure for the coronavirus by year-end.

Several public-listed Malaysian firms have also recently announced their plans to explore the development of a drug to counter the virus that has killed 809,000 people and sickened 23.4 million worldwide (at press time).

In preparation for the vaccine, Pharmaniaga has allocated some RM2 million to repurpose its existing small volume injectable plant in Puchong, Selangor, to carry out filling and finishing.

After the fill and finish process, the plant will return to its prior operations, Mohamed Iqbal said.

The vaccine supply will be heavily dependent on government-to-government arrangements in procuring the drug from potential producing countries such as India and China, to be imported into Malaysia, he added.

Vaccine manufacturers may not have the capacity to supply to the whole world in pre-filled syringes or vials.

“(Instead) the government will buy in bulk containers and Pharmaniaga has offered to repurpose the facility to fill into vials for easy administration,” he said.

The pharmaceuticals firm has seven plants at six sites in Malaysia and one plant in Bandung, Indonesia, of which only Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd in Puchong has the necessary equipment for the Covid-19 fill and finish process.

“Our capacity is around 10 million doses per month on 10 doses vial,” Mohamed Iqbal said.

The group expects business to normalise in 4Q20, with continued growth to be seen across the industry after the government upped its healthcare expenses by about 6% under the previous national budget.

Pharmaniaga’s earnings for 2Q ended June 30, 2020, rose 7.5% to RM9.98 million from RM9.28 million a year earlier, while revenue was up 7.3% at RM645.76 million from RM601.89 million last year.

This was driven by increased demand in the non-concession business, primarily a result of higher sales of personal protective equipment due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm declared a second-interim dividend of 2.5 sen, to be paid on Oct 6, 2020.

Shares of the pharmaceuticals company closed 21.7% or 94 sen higher at RM5.27 yesterday, valuing it at RM1.38 billion.