The man behind Cipla, Dr Yusuf Hamied

The man behind Cipla, Dr Yusuf Hamied

How did it all start?

Cipla was founded in India in 1935 by a man with a dream. His name was Dr Khwaja Abdul Hamied. Dr K A Hamied, an Indian Muslim, met his future wife, a Latvian Jew in Berlin, where they were graduate students. They gave birth to Yusuf Hamied in Lithuania in 1936. After Dr Khwaja Hamied’s death, his son, Yusuf Hamied, stepped into his father’s shoes, bringing with him a vision of providing affordable healthcare to all.

Dr Yusuf Hamied was raised in Bombay. After receiving his PhD from Cambridge University in Organic Chemistry, a young Dr Hamied immediately joined his father’s company as an officer in charge of research and development. He had to take permission from the government to work in his father’s company, due to the prevailing law of the land. It has been recorded that Dr Hamied, though the son of the founder, was only given a salary after completing a full year working there! Dr Y K Hamied’s milestone achievement in this period was to get the company to make API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) which made Cipla the first Indian pharmaceutical company to be self-sufficient in end-to-end drug manufacturing.

In 1976, Dr Hamied was appointed Managing Director and in 1989 he became Chairman as well. In 2012 he moved to being non-executive Chairman, a position he still holds today. He is considered a visionary in the Indian pharmaceutical industry for being the first to introduce over 30 bulk drug formulations in India as far back as the 1960’s.Currently, Cipla provides more than 1500 products across 65 therapeutic categories, which are manufactured and shipped to over 150 countries around the globe. These products are made available to private and public sectors around the world.

Dr Yusuf Hamied’s passion

A firm believer in equality, Dr Hamied fought hard to change the Indian patent law in 1972 that allowed a monopoly on all major drugs at the time. This allowed his company to produce drugs that were needed in India and elsewhere at prices that most could afford.

“My idea of a better-ordered world is one in which medical discoveries would be free of patents and there would be no profiteering from life or death,” he told

The fight against HIV/AIDS

Dr Hamied has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Cipla was the first pharmaceutical company to provide a triple combination ARV treatment to Africa for $1 a day, finally making it available to those living with HIV/AIDS.

In addition, under the guidance of Dr. Hamied, and together with the Ugandan government, Cipla set up CiplaQCIL in Uganda, one of the first WHO approved factories in sub-Saharan Africa producing ARV and anti-malarial medicines; taking a great step forward in making Uganda self-sufficient in healthcare. Dr Yusuf Hamied has said that should any company that needs the formula to create ARV ask, he would give the technology away for free as it would save lives.

In 2012, Dr. Hamied announced a breakthrough price reduction of up to 75% on select cancer drugs, furthering the Company’s commitment to make medicines affordable and accessible, particularly to cancer patients in India. Drugs constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost of cancer treatment and a reduction in costs can greatly relieve the burden.

“I believe that life-saving, essential drugs should be freely available and the innovator should be paid a suitable royalty payment for his invention.” – Dr Yusuf Hamied.

Awards and achievements

Dr. Hamied has published a number of patents and research papers internationally and has received several honours, which include among others Lady Margaret Beaufort Fellow (Christ’s College, Cambridge), the V. Krishnamurthy Award for Excellence (2005), Companion of the Guild of Cambridge Benefactors and in 2005 he was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in India for his contribution to healthcare.

“I want it to be said when I leave this world that ‘he was not just a money-making machine.’” – Dr Yusuf Hamied.


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