Making Quality Medicines Affordable: An Interview with CIPLA

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position::Communications Division, WIPO

India’s CIPLA is a global pharmaceutical company and a champion of affordable medicines. As the first generic producer of antiretroviral products, it has played a pivotal role in expanding access to HIV/AIDS therapies in the past two decades. The company’s CEO, Subhanu Saxena, discusses how CIPLA innovates and uses intellectual property (IP) to help improve access to medicines worldwide.


What is CIPLA’s mission?

True to our mantra “none shall be denied”, our mission is affordable access to medicines for every patient everywhere. We work with governments to bring affordable and sustainable access to all who need it.

What role does CIPLA play within the drug development cycle?

We focus on developing generic medicines after patent expiry. In addition to plain “vanilla” generics, we also develop more complex generic products by investing in, for example, combination products and novel delivery methods (e.g., easier dosing regimens). We have a major presence in the area of respiratory health and after GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) probably have the widest range of drug devices in the world. CIPLA has formidable research and development (R&D) technology platforms to develop better, more effective versions of medicines that have already been on the market.

So what is the role of innovation in CIPLA’s business?

Innovation is something that we take very seriously. It’s a myth that innovation only sits in Big Pharma. Innovation is central to everything we do – not just in R&D but also in our commercial models and the partnerships we establish to ensure affordable access to medicines.

CIPLA produces generic drugs but also uses the intellectual property (IP) system. Is there not a contradiction in your approach?

There is no contradiction at all. As a company with an important R&D budget and a large set of innovations, we file patents to recognize and systematize those innovations, and as a matter of course, we also make licensing available to other companies, and on reasonable terms. We respect science and fully support recognizing and rewarding innovation. We see no harm in paying royalties to innovators, but they have to be reasonable. Innovators also have to make their products available at prices that work for the countries in which they operate. Healthcare cannot be reduced to a simple business: it is humanitarian in nature, and none should be denied access because of high prices.

Do you still consider CIPLA to be a generic pharma company?

Given the amount of innovation we do today, we don’t really see ourselves as a generics company. But we are dedicated to affordable access to high-quality medicines. We also have many programs in emerging markets to help doctors and governments develop the right treatment protocols which lead to the more effective use of these medicines. So we also bring science and education to the table.

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