Domestically produced medicines go from strength to strength

Vitebsk enterprise could become flagship of pharmaceutical branch

By Yelena Burmistrova

I walk down the immaculately clean corridor and everything is fascinating to me: the next doors won’t open until the previous set is closed and access to the packaging room requires walking through a bath and the putting on of surgical boots. Each door bears an indicator of its degree of cleanliness, while workers from different subdivisions never intermix. Even lunch time is well planned, with staff able to make use of a microwave oven, kettle and refrigerator in their comfortable, yet practical, lunchroom. The environment doesn’t encourage long breaks, since time is of the essence.

“We initially begin producing the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug — ‘Oximal’,” explains the Director of BelVitunipharm, Oleg Merkushev. “Our new filling and packaging workshop (packing 50 varieties of 24 medicines) is the first stage in our innovative project to create new facilities. The next stage envisages the mastering of full-cycle drug production. We’ll manufacture a variety of medicine forms: tablets, powders, tinctures, suppositories, ointments, drops and injectable solutions.”

The company plans to achieve full capacity by mid-2012, investing about 40m euros into reconstructing another block. It is focusing on import-substitution, keen to produce 300 new products.

By early 2011, BelVitunipharm will have been reincorporated as a joint stock company, partnered by the Jordanians. The pharmaceutical market is a complicated segment, with all developments and recipes patented — protected against attempts at duplication. It takes 3-5 years to create generic preparations but up to 10 years to design an original drug: the expense of such long term investment is too great for a new facility.

A large Jordanian pharmaceutical company is providing investments to aid further construction at the plant, ensuring jobs as soon as the first stage comes into operation. Interestingly, ‘Oximal’ — which is now being packaged — has been delivered from Jordan. The firm is ready to share its technology in producing 150 drugs, which are now in demand at home and abroad.

“The opening of a new facility is of state importance,” notes Mr. Merkushev. “Besides providing the Belarusian market with good quality, well-priced medications, we can supply drugs abroad, with the help of our foreign partners: to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Our Jordanian colleagues already sell their manufactures there.”

At present, the company employs 55 workers but, in the near future, is to provide jobs for over 600 people. Vitebsk lacks specialists, so additional training is being undertaken to ensure personnel are suitably qualified. Everyone, including the director and general engineer, have been trained at leading European companies, receiving internationally recognised certificates.

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