Strong Legacy. Stronger Future

In 1981, S.V. Iyer’s son was diagnosed with Thalassaemia major. There were no long-term treatment options in India at that time, and the injectable available abroad was both extremely painful and out of reach of patients in India. An affordable oral treatment was the crying need of the hour. At that juncture, Cipla adopted one employee’s personal struggle as its own crusade, culminating in the world’s first commercial oral iron chelator in 1995.

I first heard this story directly from the protagonists, and thereafter numerous times from other witnesses and beneficiaries. And each time, I have felt the same shiver of pride that I felt the first time.

I clearly remember the time I acquired a copy of our Chairman Dr. Y.K. Hamied’s speech at the European Commission in 2000. “Friends, I represent the Third World. I represent the needs and aspirations of the Third World”, he said, before going on to change the paradigm in HIV/AIDS forever with his less than a dollar a day triple therapy ARV offer in 2001. Upon the request of the Government of Uganda, in 2005, Cipla initiated the process of transfer of technology through a state-of-the-art factory in Kampala. In response to the worldwide outbreak of bird flu the same year, and the subsequent drug shortage, Cipla manufactured its own version of oseltamivir.

As its Chief Archivist, my job is to gather Cipla’s past and present (and future plans!) through existing physical records and oral histories. As a result, it has been my privilege to capture several such stories. In 1984, at a time when Cipla was a small company with a turnover less than INR 350 million, its leaders arranged for every employee and factory worker from Mumbai to be taken to the inauguration of its Patalganga plant for a grand Parsi-themed luncheon. Even today, former and current employees have fond memories and souvenirs of the occasion!

The recurring question at Cipla has always been – how do we reconcile the quest for a higher turnover with a humanitarian outlook, be it towards patients or our own people.

As early as 1939, a visit by Mahatma Gandhi inspired our founder Dr. K.A. Hamied to continue his tireless and pioneering effort to establish Cipla as a centre of excellence in pharma. In 1997, Cipla erected a first of its kind palliative care centre to offer holistic care to cancer patients and their families free of cost. In 2016, Fortune magazine’s Change the World list recognised Cipla as one among 50 companies around the world that make a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy. Could there be stronger testimony of Cipla’s consistency in its purpose of #CaringForLife?

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World Asthma Day: Helping The World Breathefree

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. A chronic disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, the disease is a major public health concern.

This World Asthma Day, Cipla organised asthma awareness camps and screenings in various locations across geographies.

On Air In Myanmar

On 30th April, the eve of World Asthma Day, Cipla Myanmar, organised a radio broadcast to raise awareness about the disease and talk about Cipla’s contribution in the respiratory segment and device knowledge. One of Myanmar’s Key Opinion Leader, Dr Prof Ye Tun featured in the show. The half-hour radio show was a first of its kind initiative for Cipla Myanmar. The broadcast was hosted on National Myanmar Radio Station, Mandalay FM which sees a listenership of five to six million listeners on an average.

Screening camps across India

Cipla’s long-standing patient support platform, Breathefree, offers comprehensive guidance about asthma management to diagnosed patients. As a part of this initiative, Cipla launched Berok Zindagi, a mass awareness campaign to destigmatize and tackle the myths around the disease.

This World Asthma Day, Breathefree organised asthma screenings and awareness drives across India.

In Kerala, a screening camp in association with Aster Medcity was organised in Kochi. The event was a massive success where 6920 people were screened for the disease and 2526 were diagnosed with asthma. The screening was carried out at 24 KSRTC centres for KSRTC employees and the general public to understand the prevalence of asthma in Kerala. Mr Saseendran, Transport Minister of Kerala was also screened as a part of the event.

In Maharashtra, screening and awareness camps were organised in Pune and Nagpur. In Pune, the screening cams were organised in association with Dr Barnali Bhattachrya, Paediatric Consultant and Asthma Specialist. A marathon was organised where around 1200 runners were screened out of which around 50 runners were diagnosed with asthma.  Multiple asthma awareness camps were hosted across Nagpur where over 30 doctors helped screen over 700 patients.

In Indore around 32 doctors rallied together to raise awareness about asthma. In Chandigarh, a home guard awareness lecture camp was organised in association with Dr Aditya Jindal, Pulmonologist, where around  200 people volunteered for the event.

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Breathefree: Dispelling Myths About Asthma

Breathefree a public service initiative by Cipla was launched to create awareness about airway diseases such as asthma, COPD and allergic rhinitis.

As a part of the campaign to create awareness and dispell myths about asthma, Dr Raja Dhar, a leading pulmonologist in Kolkata talks about the taboo around the disease and how it can be managed effectively.

“There’s a lot of consciousness about chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension and so on. There’s a distinct lack of consciousness regarding asthma. And I think if you look at the ads the way the programme is designed it will definitely increase consciousness about asthma. The second area it addresses is the taboos regarding asthma. So again going back to the advertisements, I think it addresses the key issues about calling asthma, asthma, being confident about the disease process and knowing about it and also being confident about using the main medication which is in the form of inhalation therapy. It also stresses the fact that if you take your medication regularly, if you are good in understanding how you need to manage the disease, then you will end up having perfect control and do what you want in everyday life including getting drenched in the rain for instance.”

“Its okay if you have asthma, you have control of the disease but make sure you exercise. Because inactivity further leads to inactivity of respiratory muscles which aggravates your asthma further, besides it leads to obesity which also worsens your breathlessness and reduces physical activity further. So you get into this vicious cycle – less activity-weight gain-obesity, obesity leading further reduction of daily activities and a further worsening of asthma.”

Cipla also launched a public awareness campaign called #BerokZindagi to sensitise people about asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases. The campaign aimed at destigmatising the use of inhalation therapy and make it socially acceptable.

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Breathing New Life Into Asthma Care

In a country like India it is not surprising that breathing conditions such as asthma, wheezing, COPD and bronchitis abound. The air quality in many cities is not ideal and the dust and pollen in the air is every asthmatic’s nightmare. A large part of the population struggles with breathing difficulties, and myths and misconceptions about breathing conditions spread unabated.

Respiratory illnesses, despite being so common, still bear the brunt of social stigma because of the misconceptions around it. Even with 37 million asthmatics and 55 million COPD patients, the usage of asthma inhalers which is the most effective treatment is abysmally low at just 10%.

Blazing a trail

There have been several studies over the years on the prevalence of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The recent Global Burden of Disease Report from ICMR highlights the significant burden that these two diseases place on our economy.

As a pioneer in the field of respiratory medicine in India, Cipla connects with patients, providing more than just medicines. As a company that cares, we believe it is our responsibility to make relevant and credible information available to the public to erase the stigma around the illness and educate patients about the benefits of inhalers in asthma management.

With this in mind, Cipla rose to the challenge last year and launched BerokZindagi, a mass awareness campaign to educate patients, caregivers and the general population on the smartest ways to manage the illness. Cipla conducted a large-scale patient awareness and barriers study in late 2015, which formed the basis of BerokZindagi.

Learning to breathe free

Breathefree, is a long-standing patient support program from Cipla which offers comprehensive care for diagnosed patients. It is a one-of-a-kind support program where close to 600 patient counsellors touch 1.2 million patients every year and counsel them on the disease and its proper management.

Under the aegis of Breathefree, Cipla launched a mass awareness campaign, BerokZindagi, to tackle the patients’ myths and misconceptions around Asthma and inhalation therapy. The campaign has three main objectives; to educate people that: asthmatics can lead a fulfilling life, inhalation is a smart choice to manage asthma, and it is socially acceptable to be asthmatic and use inhalation as treatment.


#BerokZindagi: A breath of life

#BerokZindagi, our latest communication campaign focuses on awareness and education and the message is delivered through positivity and hope. We want to celebrate the fighting spirit of an asthmatic who overcomes odds every single day to live a #BerokZindagi. The campaign strives to establish inhalers as the smartest choice to combat the illness and eliminate stigma around asthma inhalers.



The #BerokZindagi campaign has used several channels to get the message across television ads and in-series integrations, cinemas, digital media, print and in-clinic and in-chemist communication. Cipla looks upon doctors and chemists as partners, and they assist us in actively reinforcing and furthering the communication of Breathefree.

The campaign was successfully integrated on television: two shows in Telugu, one show and a game show in Bengali, all of which delivered a significant incremental reach to our message. On the back of the successful run in AP/Telangana and West Bengal in FY18, the campaign will be scaled on a national level next year.
Cipla is probably the first in the country to connect with patients and start a conversation about asthma management on such a large scale.

The road ahead

The Breathefree initiative and the #BerokZindagi campaign have been extremely successful. The campaign has had a television reach of 30 million views in West Bengal and 47 million views in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It has had a digital reach of more than 9 million views and wide coverage in national and regional media.

We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from all the stakeholders involved – doctors, patients, chemists, stockists and our own field force. We have over 100 doctor testimonials and as many patient testimonials appreciating and acknowledging the positive impact of the initiative.

Looking ahead, we intend to scale it up to a national level next year and spread the message of healthy breathing to a bigger group of people. Let’s breathe-free!

International Childhood Cancer Day: Cipla Foundation Fulfills Wishes Of Over 120 Paediatric Cancer Patients

International Childhood Cancer Day is commemorated in the world over on 15th Feb 2018 to raise awareness about childhood cancer and support children with cancer. Cipla Foundation partnered with Make A Wish Foundation to fulfil the wishes of over 120 paediatric patients suffering from serious illness at three different locations:  Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru.

In Mumbai, a wish fulfilment drive was held at the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind. Dr YK Hamied and Rumana Hamied and volunteers from Cipla’s India Business team attended the drive. The Foundation fulfilled the wishes of over 50 children. Fun activities such as a drawing session, dance performance by a 9-year-old cancer survivor and Malkhamb were organised for the children.

In Bengaluru, over 60 children in the age group of 3 to 14 years were granted their wishes. Around 25 Ciplaites from API Manufacturing, Quality and Sales team volunteered for the cause at Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru.

The Pune wish fulfilment drive was held at Cipla Palliative Care & Training Centre, Pune, and fulfilled wishes of 10 paediatric cancer patients. Dr Manjiri Dighe, the Centre’s Medical Director and Dr Vibha Bafna, Oncologist – Bharti Hospital, Pune, together with Cipla Foundation, handed over gifts such as bicycles, video games and dolls to the children. Members from Cipla’s India Business team and Pune Sales team also volunteered for the cause. The children and their families enjoyed the lunch and a fun magic show.


Impressed with the high standards at the Centre, Dr Bafna said in her speech, “A wonderful place, done up aesthetically, quiet and peaceful. Almost heaven-like for patients with huge problems. A great additional help to the city of Pune and to all clinicians like us. Thanks for inviting me.”

Our volunteer squad:

A big shout out to all our volunteers for coming together and making the day special and memorable for the children and their families.

Mumbai:- Jortin George, Dharmender Singh, Abhijit Nazare, Dr Omkar Bole, Sachin Khode, Deepak Mansukhani

Bengaluru: Channabasavaiah, Abhilash Jacob, Manish, Hariprasadh T, Ramkundleswar, Chiranjeevi,

Prabhakar, Daniel Boppuri, Jumat Kumar, Shylaja Krishnamurthy, C K Kulkarni, Lokesh

Kanchan Kitthur, Parameshwarappa, Pradeep T S, Suresh Amin, Nayana T D, P L Srinivas, Sandhya H M,

Rambabu, Veeresh, Mala, Vishwajeet, K Hemanth Kumar, Lalit Singh, Sujit Kumar

Pune: Kalpesh Dagwar, Maqsood Khan, Chanchalkumar G Gilda


Here’s what few of our volunteers had to say about the wish-fulfilment drive:

  • I was deeply touched by the cause and the huge vacuum that we have to fill. I will be glad to be associated with such initiatives and am honoured to be a volunteer.
  • The happiness and smiles the kids had on their faces brought tears to my eyes. It was a delight to volunteer at the Wish Fulfilment event. This was my first volunteering experience and I will cherish it for a lifetime. Hope to be part of such programs soon.
  • We could see smiles for those little moments among the children and their parents. We could understand the pain they were going through and we should do more such events to lend our hand in their hour of crisis. I was happy to bring hope and confidence to their lives in whichever small way possible.  Thank you for enabling us to be a part of this volunteering activity.

Make-A-Wish Foundation India, is a non-profit organization that started granting wishes in 1996 and since then has fulfilled over 48,500 wishes across 9 divisions in India. The Foundation is dedicated to granting the most cherished wish of children between the ages of 3 and 18 years, living with life-threatening illnesses, irrespective of their socio-economic status, caste, race or religion.

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