Pharma lobby presses case for funding new medicines

PwC report on European drug sector highlights contributions to economy and society

Ireland’s pharmaceuticals sector contributes €14.7 billion to the Irish economy and supports a total of 45,000 jobs, according to analysis by an industry group.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations represents research-based drug companies across the continent. The group is looking to counter concerns expressed by politicians and regulators about the high cost of new medicines and the pressure it is putting on public finances.

The report focuses on presenting the impact of the industry in the best light and on defending current research incentives that are, in places, under pressure.

The European lobby group commissioned PwC to assess the direct economic impact of the industry across Europe as well as the impact on health and society of the drugs it produces.


In the case of Ireland, the report says that, on top of the 30,000 employed directly by companies in the sector, a further 5,000 are employed in suppliers to the sector.

The report then gives an assessment of the jobs created as a result of spending in the economy by its employees. In the case of Ireland, the report says this amounts to another 10,000 jobs.

Pharmaceutical powerhouse

Ireland remains one of the pharmaceutical powerhouses, according to the report, making an economic contribution roughly equivalent to Spain and Belgium in absolute terms, leaving it just behind Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Italy and France.

In terms of societal benefit, the report looks at treatment for just two conditions – HIV and breast cancer. Overall, it says that more than 650,000 patients across Europe with these conditions were treated between 2015 and 2017, as a result of which, it says, they gained two million “healthy life years”.

The industry argues that this has delivered productivity gains of €27 billion for EU economies and €13 billion in healthcare cost savings.

For Ireland, it suggest the productivity gain is just shy of €1 billion, with a particularly strong contribution from the treatment of HIV patients.

High-quality jobs

A spokesman for the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (Ipha), which is a member of the group and contributed to the PwC report, says it shows the “significant” contribution of the industry.

“The PwC report shows our industry has a deeply consequential impact, supporting high-quality jobs, creating new treatments for illnesses, and enabling people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

“We should reflect on a version of the industry that inspires hope for human health, rather than a narrative too often skewed by misconceptions and narrow rows over price.”

Ipha says the next deal with the State on pricing and supply of medicines is a “chance for us to balance the financial sustainability of the health system with the need to adequately fund innovation”.

However, there is nothing in the report about new approaches to funding that are widely considered essential to fund future innovation.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times