Magazine article Canadian Speeches

Medicines That Help Us Live Longer and Better, Save Billions of Dollars

Magazine article Canadian Speeches

Medicines That Help Us Live Longer and Better, Save Billions of Dollars

Article excerpt

Pharmaceuticals improve not only the health of Canadians, but also the health of the Canadian economy. Modern medicines help us live longer and healthier, save billions of dollars in health care and related costs, and are the basis of an important research-based industry. Speech to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation, Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 27, 1996.

I want to introduce my presentation with a quote which appeared in a 1974 Government of Canada working document entitled A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians, and which, despite the passage of more than 20 years, is still valid. The quote is:

"Good health is the bedrock on which social progress is built. A nation of healthy people can do those things that make life worthwhile, and as the level of health increases, so does the potential for happiness."

As a representative of Canada's research-based pharmaceutical industry, I want to talk to you today about the role being played by prescription medicines in protecting and enhancing the health and quality of life of Canadians, and about the contribution of our industry to the economic well-being of Canada.

I also want to touch on the cost-effectiveness of pharmaceuticals in terms of the various components of healthcare, and give you some insight into future cost savings to the healthcare system that will result from the development of new medicines.

I will also speak about the measures that have been taken by the federal government to provide a supportive environment for our industry, and the benefits that have resulted from those measures. Finally, I want to discuss the importance, to the health of Canadians and the economic prosperity of Canada, of maintaining and enhancing the viability of our industry.

Contribution of Pharmaceuticals of Healthcare

Over the past decades, several factors have contributed to the vastly improved standards of health and resultant increased average life expectancy. Those factors include many important advances in medical and surgical techniques, improved living conditions, better nutrition, and improved public health measures. However, the largest single factor in improving the health of the population is the control or cure of the most prevalent diseases.

There is no question that pharmaceutical research and development, or R&D, has produced a steady stream of new and improved medicines that have helped to bring about a substantial increase in life expectancy, and to eliminate, reduce, or control a great number of diseases.

Medicines are cost-effective, have added relatively little directly to the cost of healthcare, and have generally replaced less effective and more expensive therapies.

Let me give you some examples of the savings in terms of social costs that have resulted from the introduction of new and increasingly effective medicines.

A 1990 study entitled The Value of Pharmaceuticals: A Study of Selected Conditions (1) found that, in the United States:

* Over the past 50 years, pharmaceuticals have prevented at least 90,000 deaths from tuberculosis.

* Vaccines have helped avoid nearly a million cases of polio, of which some 400,000 would have resulted in serious disabilities.

* New medicines to treat coronary heart disease have saved an estimated 600,000 lives.

* And finally, pharmaceuticals have helped to prevent nearly half a million stroke deaths and as many as six million non-fatal strokes.

By extending those findings globally, we have some indication of the true value of medicines to the health and well-being of the world's population.

The same study found that in six of the most serious disease categories--tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles and syphilis--medicines have provided the cure or the means of prevention. …

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