I want to talk to you this evening about the role of our industry in revitalizing health care.
As Canadians, we take justifiable pride in our health system. And I include myself as a Canadian -- a newly-landed immigrant who has had the privilege of working in this country for five-and-a-half years. Our approach to health care has served Canada well.
So, understandably, people are concerned when they hear about hospital closings or read of doctors leaving for the U.S. They worry about rising costs and our ability to maintain universal access to quality care.
Yet, there are solutions to the looming crisis in health care. The brand-name pharmaceutical industry possesses some of the answers. Over the past eight years, to give you one example, we've obtained federal approval to introduce 157 new drug therapies in Canada. That includes 18 new medications for cancer, 32 for cardiovascular disease, six HIV therapies, and 101 more drugs for treating a range of debilitating illnesses.
These drugs not only reduce disease and prolong life. Many contributed to dramatic cost-reductions elsewhere in the health care system by eliminating the need for surgery and lengthy hospital visits.
New, innovative medicines, appropriately prescribed and properly taken, represent part of the solution to rising health care costs.
The industry also understands medical research and its role in the health system. We fund one-third of all such research in Canada, which makes us the country's largest contributor.
As an industry, we have considerable expertise and many ideas to contribute to the debate about health care. So, of course, do governments, health care providers, and the public. By working together, I believe we can ensure a strong health care system that is accessible and affordable.
This evening, I am asking three things of you. I am asking you to share a vision of a revitalized health care system. I am asking for your leadership in helping us achieve it. And finally, I am asking each of us to take action.
There's a story of a passenger plane flying through thick fog. The pilot's voice comes over the loud speaker: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid to tell you we're lost. We don't know where we are -- and we don't know where we're going." There is a long pause, and the pilot adds, "But you will be pleased to hear, we are right on schedule."
Now, we may not always be pleased with the schedule. But unlike that pilot, we know exactly where we are.
Over the past four days, we've had a chance to discuss in depth the major issues facing the brand-name pharmaceutical industry. These are challenges, not just to the members of PMAC, but also to Canadians who want access to innovative, affordable therapies.
Foremost is the issue of protecting intellectual property. Drug companies must invest up to 12 years and half a billion dollars to develop and obtain approval for a new medication. That's a massive commitment of resources by anyone's standard. Before investing in R&D, companies must have assurance that their intellectual property will have a reasonable level of legal protection.
Fortunately, the federal government recognized that reality by increasing protection of intellectual property through Bill C-22 in 1987 and in C-91 in 1993. This legislation brought Canadian intellectual property standards to international levels.
That proved to be the right course. Since 1988, the brand-name industry has invested $2.5 billion in medical R&D and expects to spend another $2.5 billion by the end of the century. That's an investment that will produce many effective new medications, improving the quality of life for perhaps millions of people. It also translates into thousands of well-paid jobs for Canadians.
So, where do we stand today. As Yogi Berra once said, "It's deja vu all over again."
Having won a reasonable level of patent protection, the industry now sees it being whittled away through continuing delays in the federal drug approval process. Ottawa's review of C-91 and the potential for future actions under NAFTA may also pose threats to the ownership of intellectual property.
Related to this is the challenge of improving the process for new drug approvals. Canada's regulatory process has been uncompetitive for much of the past decade, resulting in unnecessary delays in the approval of new medications.
Fortunately, 1995 brought encouraging signs of improvement. We must continue working together -- and with the federal government -- to bring Canada's approvals process in line with international standards.
The third challenge is Optimal Drug Therapy. Our goal is to ensure that all Canadians have timely access to the right drugs at affordable prices, and that medications are properly prescribed and used. As an industry, we work hard to educate consumers and health care professionals. But that is just part of the picture.
The provinces must also come onside, by recognizing the value of new medications and listing them on their drug programs. Today, approved new medications stand only a 50-50 chance of being listed by a province, despite their proven superiority to current treatments.
Finally, at the heart of all of these issues, is the continuing challenge of building on our relationships with stakeholders, especially consumers and their advocates, health care providers, and governments. We're all working towards the same goal -- a health care system that combines quality and affordability. That's best achieved through good-will and the sharing of expertise.
Those are the issues, or as I prefer to think of them, the opportunities waiting to happen. And sitting here in this room tonight, are the people and the resources to make them happen.
Now, this is not a lecture. We're all equals here. As Stephen Leacock once said, "Most people tire of lectures in 10 minutes. Clever people can do it in five. And sensible people don't listen to lectures at all." But I do want to point out the strengths we possess.
In PMAC, we have an association that has been streamlined for effectiveness in managing issues. Within our own companies, we have the financial and the human resources that can be deployed in the broader pursuit of a superior health care system.
As leaders in the industry, we understand the challenges in depth. We've shown that over the past four days. We understand the barriers to competition and the global forces that are transforming the industry.
We have an outstanding track record in delivering cost-effective therapies to Canadians. We have the strategic plans articulated over the past four days. All the components of success are there.
And in addition, we have a powerful vision to guide us. It's a vision of a health care system with access to high quality, affordable care, and one in which the brand-name pharmaceutical industry and effective, affordable medicines are a vital part.
It's the vision that lay behind all our discussions this week.
It's a future with undisputed support for the protection of intellectual property.
It includes a streamlined approval agency -- affordable to government and comparable to the world's best. It's an agency that is cost-effective, productive and delivers worldclass approval processes for new drug therapies.
In our vision, the marketplace and governments understand that pharmaceuticals is a knowledge-based industry and vital to generating jobs and wealth in the new economy. There is appreciation for an important sector where employment is growing at twice the rate of employment gains in the total economy.
It's a future where all stakeholders come together to generate workable solutions to preserve and improve Canada's health care system. By cooperating, we share a global view of the total system, rather than seeing, and managing, health care as a series of isolated mandates.
And finally, it's a vision of a future where we work closely with health care providers to deliver optimal drug therapy, where the best possible therapy is available to each individual patient. Informed consumers, for their part, understand and accept the vital role of the pharmaceutical sector in delivering optimal care.
That's one vision of the future, a health care system that works in the interests of all Canadians, and a pharmaceutical sector contributing in full measure to the health and economic well-being of the country.
There are solutions to the dilemmas of cost and quality facing Canada's health care system. A strong, vibrant pharmaceutical industry is among them. We have the track-record to prove it.
Yet despite that, Canadians are still waiting to be convinced. That is our responsibility -- to communicate our vision to the public. And like success, it's an on-going journey, not a destination.
This evening, I am asking each of you as PMAC members, and as senior representatives of your companies, to help move us forward toward the future. We need your leadership in sharing our vision with your people, with customers, with health care providers.
Canadians should know that there are answers to the crises of cost and quality in health care, and that the brand-name pharmaceutical industry possesses some of them.
And we need your action to implement the strategic initiatives we've communicated here in Vancouver. We are asking you to become truly involved in the committees and work of PMAC.
I am personally asking you to commit what financial resources you can to these initiatives, plus your time and expertise and that of your people.
Many constituencies are waiting for us to act. Among the public, within government, within the health care field, there are individuals who understand the issues and know what is at stake. They expect us to be part of the solution.
Our industry has brought to Canada and the world extraordinary products that have contributed to a substantial increase in life expectancy, reduced suffering, and improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.
It all begins with research. Now, the ability of our industry to conduct that research in Canada is threatened. I am asking you to help move Canada toward the future, rather than the past.
There's our symbol of the moment -- the sun. Let's work together to ensure that it is, indeed, a rising sun.…