Building Confidence and Production of Better Medicines

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
At Nobel Pharmsanoat laboratories with USAID pharmaceutical experts
Courtesy of Shamshod

How USAID’s support enabled a pharmaceutical company in Uzbekistan to step up during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Usually it takes a year to bring a new medicine to the market. On average, we launch six to eight new medicines annually. However, this time during COVID pandemic, despite the quarantine limitations, we managed to introduce five new medicines much sooner, including antiviral medications,” shares Shamshod Sharipov, Quality Director at Nobel Pharmsanoat from Uzbekistan. “It was a difficult time but we knew we had to act quickly.”

“Without previous USAID’s long-term support it would have been difficult for us to introduce five medications in such a short period of time,” explains Shamshod. Since 2017, USAID has supported Nobel Pharmsanoat to ensure it meets the internationally accepted Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and has strong quality assurance systems. Those past efforts played an instrumental role by enabling the company to respond to local challenges during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I joined Nobel Pharmsanoat in 2003, the company manufactured only four types of medicines. Now that number has increased to 75,” says Shamshod with pride. He started as a chemist analyst in 2003 and now oversees a newly established department of Quality Assurance as the Quality Director. He is originally from Bukhara, and today, he lives in Tashkent with his wife and three sons.

On March 15, the Government of Uzbekistan announced quarantine restrictions due to COVID-19. “Our company started following and analyzing the news about the virus when it all started in China. By mid-February, well before the official quarantine, our staff started wearing masks and practicing physical distancing,” explains Shamshod.

Nobel Pharmsanoat set up a scientific working group to respond to COVID-19. “We hadn’t realized that the virus would last this long, nevertheless, we held weekly meetings to assess how it would affect the market,” says Shamshod. The support and guidance from USAID’s Promoting Quality Medicines Plus project and the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) helped Nobel Pharmsanoat to be responsive to the market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2014, USAID has been partnering with the Government and private sector in Uzbekistan to improve the quality and safety of medicines. One of the successes of this partnership has been ensuring the quality of medicines available to treat diseases of public health importance such as tuberculosis (TB).

USAID, through the USP, supported the Government of Uzbekistan’s efforts to improve the country’s competitiveness in the pharmaceutical sector and comply with international standards. To achieve these goals, USAID cooperated with local partners to improve manufacturing practices and standards, and most importantly, focused their joint efforts on making sure citizens had access to quality assured medicines.

In 2018, Nobel Pharmsanoat invested  $20,000,000 (USD 20 million) in the development of a new facility and latest technologies to ensure quality. Based on USAID’s recommendations, Nobel Pharmsanoat set up the production line at its new manufacturing site according to international GMP standards.

“We’ve received those critical recommendations just in time to make the necessary changes in construction and layout design. The changes we made helped us comply with international quality standards,” says Shamshod.

USAID also trained company staff how to implement a pharmaceutical quality system. “Audits and training provided by USAID helped build our confidence. For instance, trainings on such important topics as data integrity were even unavailable in Russia and Turkey, but we had the opportunity to study and master them at home in Uzbekistan,” says Shamshod.

USAID also works with government counterparts on improving the country’s regulatory system to assure the quality of medical products and strengthen the skills of professionals in the pharmaceutical sector.

“The most difficult part of my job is the responsibility behind every decision I make. Our whole team works hard to make sure that customers receive quality medicines,” explains Shamshod. “We know how far we’ve come and confidently look into the future.”