Taking into account just the effects of new cancer drugs, Canadian governments registered savings of $4.7 billion in hospital expenditure in 2012 alone, whereas total spending on cancer drugs, old and new, was an estimated $3.8 billion that same year.
“If no new drugs had been registered from 1980 to 1997, the number of hospital days in 2012 would have been almost twice as high,” says Professor Lichtenberg, who has published numerous articles on the issue in a variety of scientific journals. “This represents in one single year net savings of at least $900 million for the Canadian health care system.”
The costs of new pharmaceuticals are often the subject of critical media coverage, but their benefits are rarely mentioned. Yet pharmaceutical innovation is responsible for a large part of long-term improvements in the health and longevity of patients.
For example, the premature (before age 75) cancer mortality rate declined by 8.4% from 2000 to 2011 in Canada. This rate would instead have increased by 12.3% in the absence of pharmaceutical innovation, implying that 105,366 years of potential life before age 75 would have been lost in 2011 alone.
“Although new drugs are expensive, this cost is small when compared with the benefits they provide for patients,” argues Professor Lichtenberg.
The publication also points out that financial incentives are a prerequisite for the industry to sustain a robust rate of pharmaceutical innovation. “It is important for drugs to be appropriately priced in order for manufacturers to have the proper incentives to invest in the development of new molecules, a very risky process that can be very expensive for the innovating company,” argues Youri Chassin, Research Director at the MEI.
The Research Paper entitled The Benefits of Pharmaceutical Innovation: Health, Longevity, and Savings was prepared by Frank R. Lichtenberg, Courtney C. Brown Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Business and Associate Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute. This publication is available here.