Interview: Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, Cipla Ltd., India

By Daniele Dionisio, GESPAM Head

Interview: Yusuf  Khwaja  Hamied, Chairman and Managing Director, Cipla Ltd., India

GESPAM had the pleasure to interview Dr. Yusuf Khwaja Hamied as the Chairman and Managing Director of pharmaceutical  Indian company Cipla Limited.   

Cipla is renowed both locally and internationally for its high standards, quality, efficacy and affordability of medicines.

Born in 1936, Dr. Hamied obtained Ph.D in Organic Chemistry from Cambridge University. In the same year, he joined Cipla as a Research Officer. He was appointed as its Managing Director in 1976 and as Chairman in the year 1989.

Dr. Hamied has introduced over 30 new drugs to India and is marketing as cost-effective options to 180 countries worldwide. Under his guidance Cipla is now ranked as a leader in the domestic pharmaceutical industry and Cipla’s manufacturing facilities have been approved by various international regulatory authorities including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-USA, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)-UK, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)-Australia, Medicines Control Council (MCC)-South Africa, National Institute of Pharmacy (NIP)-Hungary, Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention (PIC)-Germany, World Health Organisation (WHO), Department of Health-Canada, State Institute for the Control of Drugs-Slovak Republic, ANVISA-Brazil

In numerous public dialogues Dr. Hamied has sought to make patient welfare the priority for multinational pharmaceutical companies and the World Trade Organization, rather than concerns about profitability, patents and economic returns.

Dr. Hamied’€™s vision is that every citizen in India should have full access to vital medicines and healthcare at affordable prices. Coherently, he has been at the forefront of the movement to break big pharma’€™s global monopoly over lifesaving drugs. And he got his latest success on 7 September 2012 when the Delhi High Court ruled that Cipla can sell its own generic version of the Roche cancer drug erlotinib, at a third of the proprietary version price. 

Under Dr. Hamied’€™s leadership, Cipla was the first to offer the HIV triple drug cocktail, Triomune, which can transform the life of an HIV positive patient at a fraction of the international cost.

Dr. Hamied  has also established the Cipla Palliative Care Centre in India, and the Hamied Institute for Education and Research into Palliative Care, at a time when Cipla continues its ongoing support of education and community welfare both directly and through charitable trusts.

Thanks to Dr. Hamied, Cipla has launched breakthrough medicines including one in cancer chemotherapy, a once-daily novel 4 drug kit Qvir for HIV, and an innovative ‘€œMother-Baby Pack’€ for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. And, as part of a  partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Cipla just announced the prequalification of the fixed dose combination (FDC) of Artesunate (AS) and Mefloquine (MQ) -€“ ASMQ FDC -€“ by the WHO. This Cipla-manufactured ASMQ FDC is the first artesunate-mefloquine FDC to be prequalified by WHO and is recommended for the treatment of malaria. 

Meanwhile, DNDi and Cipla are committed to develop a 4-in-1 new formulation to fill the gap in appropriate HIV medicines for infants and young children.

Dr. Hamied’€™s contributions as a scientist, a business man and a humanitarian personality have been recognized by a number of awards to the company and himself.


GESPAM: Dr. Hamied, India’s obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO) prevent local companies from making generics for medicines introduced since 2005. These developments threaten the supply of generic medicines from India that serve as a lifeline to resource-limited countries. What about India’€™s relevant patent law?


Yusuf Hamied: India changed its patent laws in 1972, exactly 40 years ago. Prior to this India followed the British Patent Law of 1911. The 1972 law abolished product patent for drugs, but retained process patent. The effect of this was that the indigenous drug industries in India made enormous strides and is today regarded as the pharmacy capital of the world. In 2005, India changed its patent laws and reintroduced product patents back-dating the cut-off date to January 1995.


GESPAM: Under Section 3(d) of its 2005 Amended Patents Act, India is free to reject frivolous patent applications to any new forms of old medicines unless therapeutic efficacy has increased significantly. And earlier from 1 January 1995, a mailbox facility was put in place in India to receive product patent applications. In cases where Indian companies were already rolling out these products before 1 January 2005, they can continue to produce under Section 11A(7), against ‘€œreasonable royalty’€.  

Bearing these safeguards in mind, do you think India’€™s patent law amendment in 2005 was a fair process?


Yusuf Hamied: This was totally unfair. The government passed the 2005 patent bill without a debate and only on show of hands on an issue affecting the lives of millions of Indians. The problem is that after 2015 India will enter into a system of monopoly. We are against monopoly, not against valid patents. Today drug patents are being filed in India frivolously with no real novelty. Also same patents are being filed in multiple locations e.g. Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, etc. so that they are approved somewhere.


GESPAM: In this connection, which is your fight today?


Yusuf Hamied: Our fight today is against frivolous patenting in India. Our fight also is that as WTO’€™s TRIPS rules allow a compulsory licensing system*, India should adopt this immediately for all drugs .  This was mandated in the Doha Declaration and was a system followed by Canada from 1969 to 1992 under the Canadian Bill S-91. In our opinion, this is the best legal way possible for India.


*Compulsory license (WTO rule): when a resource-limited country’s government allows the manufacture domestically or importing of copies of patented drugs at prices much cheaper than those imposed by the patent holder and without his consent. Both importing and exporting countries need to have enabling legislation in place (a corresponding compulsory license for export has to be issued by the exporting country)


GESPAM: In other terms?


Yusuf Hamied: India on intellectual property must decide its own destiny and not follow the dictates of the EU or the USA. India will want like minded countries to follow its example.


GESPAM: Thank you Dr. Hamied for your upfront vision.