Aspen spikes on news that ‘breakthrough’ coronavirus drug is made in South Africa

South African pharmaceutical company Aspen says it has rights to dexamethasone – which has been labelled as an early ‘breakthrough’ drug in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

In a statement to shareholders on Wednesday (17 June), Aspen said it has noted the preliminary results of a drug trial using dexamethasone in the treatment of patients with Covid-19 requiring respiratory intervention and the related media coverage.

“It is confirmed that Aspen owns rights to this product and distributes both injectables and/or tablets containing dexamethasone in a number of countries.

“Aspen markets an injectable dexamethasone in South Africa, which is manufactured locally by a third party.”

The company’s shares were up 6.09% at 11h05 on Wednesday morning following the announcement.

Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers.

It has been listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations and is currently off-patent and affordably available in most countries.

For patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth.

“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with Covid-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said in a statement early on Wednesday morning (17 June), that the drug had seen a successful trial in the UK and will likely be used in South Africa.

While the full findings of the trial are still required, South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) said that use of the drug may be considered for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19 who are being mechanically ventilated.


In a post-Covid world, research investments could prove particularly lucrative for some companies.

South African Investment group Sygnia says that it could pour as much as £550 million (R12.4 billion) into Oxford-based businesses over the next few years.

In a presentation to clients of wealth management firm Brenthurst, seen by The Telegraph, Syngia’s OSI Fund suggested it could deploy around £150 million (R2.75 billion) in cash to Oxford Sciences Innovation, the university spin-out arm, and its portfolio companies next year.

It could invest a further £400 million (R7.4 billion) the following year, it said.

Of this cash, Syngia is thought to already have raised £200 million. Syngia OSI Fund owns around a 16% stake in Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the university spin-out arm, and is its largest shareholder.

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Aspen spikes on news that ‘breakthrough’ coronavirus drug is made in South Africa