Roche renews its commitment to the primary healthcare Phelophepa trains, marking the 25th anniversary

Basel, 19 September 2019

  • Roche and Transnet, the main freight logistics company in South Africa, came together in 1994 to establish Phelophepa, the world’s first comprehensive primary healthcare facility on rail
  • Phelophepa has touched the lives of over 14 million people in South Africa since its first journey
  • Roche pledges its continued commitment to Phelophepa as the main external sponsor

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today announced its renewed support of the Phelophepa primary healthcare trains in South Africa as the main external sponsor to mark this milestone 25th anniversary.

The Phelophepa trains offer free, mobile, primary healthcare clinics that travel to rural areas of South Africa, where there is just one doctor for every 5,000 patients. Phelophepa (pronounced pay-lo-pe-pa) means "good, clean health" and is owned and operated by Transnet, with Roche being Phelophepa’s main external sponsor since it began in 1994.

“We are very proud that we have helped to provide important primary healthcare services including diagnostics, treatments and education to rural communities in South Africa for 25 years,” says Roche CEO Severin Schwan. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Transnet in support of Phelophepa for many years to come.”

Starting as a three-car train, the service was expanded to two 19-coach trains in 2012. The two trains (Phelophepa I and Phelophepa II) are fitted with diagnostic tools and offer diabetes and cancer screenings, such as breast exams, pap smears and prostate checks. There are six clinics onboard including an eye clinic, providing vision tests, cataract screenings, and glasses; a dental clinic, providing dental exams, x-rays, and teeth cleanings; and a psychology clinic, providing individual counselling and group workshops to help people cope with issues such as stress and depression.

In addition, Phelophepa runs an extensive health education programme. This includes basic health education for the local schools, HIV/AIDS and cancer awareness programmes for the surrounding communities, and primary healthcare training for student doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Phelophepa employees over 40 permanent staff, who live and work on the trains nine months of the year, hires temporary staff from the communities where it stops along its route, and works with thousands of volunteers to deliver this broad range of primary healthcare services.

Since the journey first started 25 years ago, the trains have touched the lives of over 14 million people, providing essential primary healthcare services including health screenings and medicines to millions of South Africans. Phelophepa has received the United Nations Public Service Award for its excellence in public service delivery.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalised healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible.
Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management.
Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. The company also aims to improve patient access to medical innovations by working with all relevant stakeholders. More than thirty medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Moreover, for the eleventh consecutive year, Roche has been recognised as one of the most sustainable companies in the Pharmaceuticals Industry by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI).
The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2018 employed about 94,000 people worldwide. In 2018, Roche invested CHF 11 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 56.8 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit

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