The Conference Board of Canada recently released a report entitled Reducing the Health Care and Societal Costs of Disease: The Role of Pharmaceuticals. The study looked at six commonly-used classes of drugs and the benefits that arise from their use, specifically in Ontario. The Board’s analysis demonstrated that there are some significant benefits for both health care costs and for society overall from improved productivity within the sector.

Every day there seems to be another commentary on the state of Canada’s health care system. More often than not, the discussion turns to how the suppliers (read: “big pharma”) are reaping the rewards of the system and how we (the taxpayers) are losing as we pay more. The pharmaceutical industry is an easy, non-personal target that is seen as taking more than it gives back.

Having worked with pharmaceutical companies for more than 20 years, I know that the challenge of trying to change this view is not an easy one. There have been some undeniable missteps by the pharmaceutical industry, but I would hazard a guess that the evolution of every sector has included some black marks of which each would rather not be reminded. However, my experience working with the intelligent and dedicated people in the industry tells the other side of the story.

The view from inside the industry is one of committed people who often get into the business because of the promise to help patients and make a difference. Yes, the industry is driven by profit—as is any business. But it’s about more than that. At the end of the day, the research and products generated by individuals working in the industry save lives, improve quality of life and save health-care dollars. A recent report by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) shows just that.

In the report, the CBC reviewed the impact of six drug classes and the aggregate health and societal benefits associated with each. The report examined these drugs in treating six common conditions: high blood pressure (angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors), high cholesterol (statins), type II diabetes (biguanides), rheumatoid arthritis (biological response modifiers), asthma (inhaled steroids) and smoking (prescription non-nicotine smoking-cessation aids). The clear conclusion was that there are significant health-care and societal benefits of these pharmaceutical innovations.

For instance, in 2012 for every dollar spent, Ontario reaped $2 in societal and health benefits. Looking into the future shows even better outcomes, where by 2030 it’s estimated that every $1 spent will result in close to a $5 benefit in just those classes alone. The evidence is clear—where there is an environment that encourages both innovation and competition, the societal benefits are significant. This H+K infographic summarizes some of the data from the study.