Dr. Yusuf Hamied
- CEO, Cipla (Pharmaceuticals)
Born Vilnius, Lithuania, 1936. Bachelors, Chemistry, University of Cambridge (1956); Masters, University of Cambridge (1957); PhD Chemistry, University of Cambridge (1960).
“In America, the price [of AIDS drugs] is $24,000 per patient per year. You know at what price I am giving it to Africa? $96 per patient per year.”
Yusuf Hamied is a Cambridge-educated chemist and the chairman of Cipla, a large generic pharmaceuticals company founded in 1935 by his father, Khwaja Abdul Hamied. Yusuf Hamied became a global celebrity for his role in defying Western multinational pharmaceutical companies in order to provide generic AIDS treatments and other drugs to treat poor people in the developing world.
After completing his doctorate in 1960, Hamied joined the family company and vowed to break the dominance of foreign multinationals over the Indian pharmaceutical market by developing cheap generic drugs. In the interview, Hamied recounts how he helped persuade the Indian government to change Indian patent law in 1972, permitting medicines to be copied even if they were under international patent, as long as the process was not the same. The law transformed the Indian pharmaceutical industry, enabling his and other companies to grow by manufacturing generic drugs.
In 2001 Hamied convulsed the global healthcare industry by promising and then delivering a triple drug cocktail, Triomune, that helped fight against HIV and AIDS at prices far lower than those available internationally. Hamied discusses his subsequent anger when, in 2005, the Indian government brought its patent laws in line with those of the developed world, prohibiting the copying of drugs patented after 1995 without a license, and his resentment that he had thereafter “to go with a begging bowl to the multinationals” for licenses. This interview provides not only a personal perspective on how India’s third largest pharmaceutical firm was created, but contributes to the broad debates on the costs and benefits of intellectual property laws, particularly their impact on people who are denied life-saving drugs by their inability to pay for them.