We at the Association for Accessible Medicines are proud of our rich heritage. The pioneers who forged our industry deserve to be heralded. Some are still with us; some are gone. Please keep reading about them and their contributions to society.
Only in America…Where we dream as big as we want to.
Long before Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn penned the lyrics to their hit song
Only in America, Kanu Patel already believed that his dream of building a company to
make healthy possible had the best chance of becoming reality in America. Ask him today and he will tell you,
The success we have had, I don't think is possible anywhere else in the world. Here is his story.
Kanu Patel was born in India. He grew up in a home lacking many of the conveniences we take for granted today. There was no plumbing, no indoor bath, no school bus to ride to his daily classes.
School was 12 kilometers from home, and he walked a substantial distance to catch public transportation every day, even as a very young boy, son Chirag Patel told me. But that was not a concern for Kanu. He studied hard and was an excellent student, excelling in the sciences. And as was the custom then, students who scored well in the sciences typically pursued college degrees in one of three fields: engineering, pre-med or pharmaceuticals. Kanu chose pharmaceuticals and soon earned his Bachelor of Science degree from L.M. College of Pharmacy in Ahmedabad.
Kanu began his career as an industrial pharmacist. It wasn’t long before the technical skills and experience he acquired in the private sector enabled him to broaden his career opportunities. He accepted a position as an inspector for India’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
For 9 years I worked as an inspector, with my main duty being to assure that the people got quality medicine, he recalls.
I believed from my childhood that integrity is the way of living. We always lived with ethical practices, Kanu said, adding that he applied those same standards to his work.
In 1976, Kanu’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to resign his government role and establish two companies in India – one focused on generic distribution and the other on manufacturing surgical gauze and bandages. But even while enjoying a successful career and buildup of these businesses, he never let go of the dream to one day create his own pharmaceutical company. So in 1987, Kanu packed up the Patel family and emigrated to the United States. Here, he believed, was the place dreams can come true. He saw in America
a business environment that fosters and rewards entrepreneurial spirit.
Chirag recalls his father saying,
We're going to America only with one condition—that we go there to work hard, educate ourselves and make it on our own. Kanu was raised on the Gandhian philosophy of truth and service, and he instructed his sons likewise.
He taught us there is no easy money. He said that to achieve prosperity you must be honest and work hard, then you will get the fruits, Chirag said.
We came to this country with nothing, just $20. So we had to start working from day one. Within a week of landing in the U.S., Chirag found employment at the Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York City. Younger brother Chintu, just 15, got a job at a candy store. Meanwhile, Kanu became a registered pharmacist in New York and joined Sidmak Labs.
Nearly 15 years passed before Kanu felt the time had come to pursue his long-held dream. It was 2002 when he took the leap of faith, and with his sons founded a drug company. At the time, Chirag was enjoying success with technology start-ups and Chintu, following in his father's footsteps, was working as a pharmacist. Chintu says he remembers vividly that in 2002, when the generic substitution rate was barely 40%, customers would come to his pharmacy and not be able to pay for their prescriptions because access to generics was limited.
That’s when we saw a purpose to start a generic drug company, he says,
and the purpose created a passion that gave us the drive to do what we wanted to do.
At last, after several decades and a halfway around the world relocation, Kanu was living his dream. In the 19 years since Amneal Pharmaceuticals began operations, the company has grown to be the fourth largest supplier of generics in the U.S., producing more than 150 million prescriptions annually.
Today, nearly 80 years young, Kanu is as active as he’s ever been. He spends his time directing Amneal India as well as advising Amneal co-CEOs, sons Chirag and Chintu. Family values have been a core driver of Kanu’s success and that spirit today permeates the Amneal culture, which has now expanded to include more than 6,500 global employees – all of whom he treats like family. In fact, Kanu today spends a great deal of time sharing his deep wisdom and life experiences to help Amneal leaders grow and flourish.
And with a keen memory of from whence he came and a generous spirit of wanting to give back to the community, Kanu serves on several boards and foundations. He is a Director of his Vimala and Kanu Foundation, which offers meaningful college scholarships to 30 children of Amneal U.S. employees every year. He also serves on the board for the Irada and Niswarth foundations, which are focused on providing health care and education services to the underserved in India. He is a director of the U.S.-based WIN Foundation, whose mission is to support the delivery of clean water and sanitation for people and communities in underdeveloped areas. And perhaps closest to his heart, Kanu helps to fund annual scholarships for nearly 50 pharmacy students in India through the Foundation for Excellence, FFE India Trust.
Together, Kanu’s passion and leadership across his various endeavors is not only enhancing lives and enabling many to follow in his footsteps of achieving their dreams, but it also, as Kanu would say,
making healthy possible for millions.
Only in America, where we dream as big as we want. For all you have done and continue to do, we say,
Thank you Kanu Patel!
By Bob Billings. Active in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 25 years, Bob held various positions at the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (now the Association for Accessible Medicines) from 2007 through June 2015, including Interim President and Executive Director. | Published on September 21, 2021
Read more from our series on the founders of generic medicines
- Eli Hurvitz
- Jean Hoffman
- Mike Puskar
- Rep. Henry Waxman
- Carole Ben-Maimon
- Desh Bandhu Gupta
- Agnes Varis
- Bill Haddad