The Zimbabwean leader in cost-effective generic drug manufacturing
In business since 1985, Varichem Pharmaceuticals is a privately wholly-owned Zimbabwean company that manufactures and markets a wide range of top-quality generic pharmaceuticals and related products to the public.
It was almost 30 years ago when the leaders at Varichem realised there was a huge vacuum in the ability for many citizens of Zimbabwe to access reliable and cost effective health care products. Posing the biggest obstacle for newcomers to this industry was breaking the hold on the industry, which had been dominated for decades by the wealthy and influential pharmaceutical multinationals. The emergence of Varichem into the healthcare business signaled a new era in the pharmaceutical market, giving many people access to much-needed drugs.
Varichem provides top-quality generic pharmaceuticals, oral, tablets, capsules and lozenges along with basic antibiotics as well as anti-inflammatory drugs. There are anti retrovirals, anti virals, antihypertensives, anti-infectives, analgesics, antipyretice, anti asthmatics, gastrointestinals, anti diabetic, anti epileptics, topical preparations and numerous other consumer products.
“We have separate plants that will develop different pharmaceutical drugs,” says Dennis Choguya, sales and marketing director at Varichem. “We have quite a large range of anti-fungal drugs and creams.”
The ability to provide a wide range of safe, affordable drugs to the general public is considered a tremendous gift to provide many citizens of the country who otherwise could not possibly pay for such expensive medicine from the larger name brand suppliers.
“In Zimbabwe there are a lot of manufacturers but there are many people in need of medicine, and there are different levels of income within families and communities,” Choguya tells TABJ. “There are lots of competitors but we believe we have excellent products and at a far better price.”
In 2010 Varichem became the first wholly indigenous African company to attain World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification. With the WHO prequalification it means the company has attained WHO quality standards for their manufacturing plant. Two of Varichem’s ARVs,which are Stalanev 30 (Stavudine 30mg, Nevirapine 200mg, Lamivudine 150mg) and Varivar (Lamivudine 150mg, Zidovudine 300mg), have also been prequalified.
Varichem’s success has been widespread and the company continues to look to expand throughout the entire continent of Africa. With about 150 employees, creating sustainable value through the provision of cost effective healthcare products while meeting current and future demands of their customers, is first and foremost in the minds of the leadership at the company.
The company is currently adding several products to its list of consumer products. These products are: Varipan (Paracetamol), Neutracid (Compound Magnesium Trisilicate) and Aspirin. They are available in all leading supermarkets throughout Zimbabwe.
Varichem is also in the process of getting its plant and products prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as they aim to consolidate their plant and product quality position in order to access the Global Funds market.
“We endeavor to carry out our operations in an environment friendly manner, which results in the minimum possible damage to nature,” Choguya says. “Varichem recognizes the importance of ensuring the provision of a safe and healthy environment both within and outside the company. The protection of the environment is critical to the long- term sustainable future of the country and its citizens.”
It was clear from the outset that there was a need for Varichem Pharmaceuticals to fill a huge void which oftentimes left many people without access to high-priced medicine. To this day the company continues to grow thanks to excellent leadership and dedicated staff members.
“From the very beginning, we got encouraging support from both the public and private sectors and our presence on the domestic market has largely contributed to the availability of affordable, quality and efficacious medicines,” Choguya says.
The success of Varichem has been extremely widespread. Many other nations are in the same situation, whereby citizens cannot afford expensive medicines.
“Besides fulfilling local demand, we have established very good business relationships with regional buyers,” Choguya notes. “Now we are exporting our generic pharmaceuticals to Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. From a humble export figure, our exports have increased many folds over the past five years and this indicates growing confidence of our regional customers on our products.”
Choguya attributes Varichem’s success to the dedicated people it employs. The company makes a concerted effort to ensure equal employment opportunities with due recognition being given to top producers, based on quality, skill and ultimately performance.
“The company creates a great working environment with excellent training programs to enable employees to perform their duties to the best possible level,” he says. “We offer competitive compensation.” In other words, quality work is rewarded, which is one reason why the vast majority of staff members stay on with the company for many years. The success of any company starts with the employees it hires.
Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social investment is one of the cornerstones of the business philosophy at Varichem. Their primary focus is to identify specific community requirements – particularly those associated with the core business, healthcare and to mobilize product, finance and human resources to help meet those needs, where appropriate. The process is not only an integral part of Varichem’s operating culture but also represents an investment in the society in which they operate- a society on which they ultimately depend for our growth and success. Above all, it reflects a business belief that business has a key role to play in helping societies cope with the increasing social challenges.