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Innovation Will Lead to the Health Care Canadians Deserve

09/10/2012 05:06 EDT | Updated 11/10/2012 05:12 EST
Alamy

Today's global economy presents a reality unlike any we have faced before. Competition from emerging markets and economies is fierce. Across the entire Canadian economy, people are realizing the truth -- simply doing what we've done in the past is not going to be enough to maintain our standard of living.

Take, for example, the issue of health care. Every government in Canada is facing frightening health care cost increases. In many cases, the instinctive response has been to cut costs by limiting therapies and services. Canadians, sitting for hours in bleak waiting rooms, can tell us where this approach leads.

We can clearly see that a cost-cutting approach only works for a while. As a long term strategy, resucing services won't deliver the type of results we need. Given the giant demographic shift underway now, we aren't going to save our way to great health care.

Better productivity offers the only opportunity to find new solutions that will preserve high quality health care in a cost effective way. Better productivity starts with dynamic innovation, and to foster that, we need big investments in Canadian ideas and research.

To drive economic growth by creating a culture of innovation, our innovators require strong support. Intellectual property is a key element of success. Leading economies around the world have made effective IP a priority.

Research and development is a high-tech field that supports high-paying jobs. At the Canadian Chamber we advocate legislation that protects research data, and compensation for long government delays in the regulatory process. Without these features in our law -- competitive with what other nations offer -- Canada is losing R&D investments and the high-quality jobs that come with them.

Our Chamber of Commerce membership includes many pharmaceutical companies and their record illustrates the point; Since Canada strengthened the Patent Act in 1987, innovative pharmaceutical companies have invested an average of 9.9 per cent of their annual sales in R&D, driving the total invested from $93 million 25 years ago to $1.3 billion today -- one of the best industry records in Canada.

But the level of investment has declined in recent years -- as other countries have become increasingly competitive for R&D dollars. When we strengthened protection for pharmaceutical patents 25 years ago, alarmists lined up with claims that drug prices would skyrocket, without any tradeoff in increased research investment.

History has proven those alarmists wrong. The sky did not fall. In fact, Canadian drug price increases have remained below the rate of inflation. It was investments in pharmaceutical research that skyrocketed -- a 15-times increase since 1987.

With the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union in the late stages of negotiation, Canada has a unique opportunity to do what it did 25 years ago and spark a new wave of innovation that will attract international investment and stimulate research and development.

Canadians will see improved health-care outcomes. Governments will see alternatives to the mounting pressures on our health-care system. Put simply, innovation is not a choice. Improving Canadian competitiveness demands it. Canadians in need of a more sustainable and effective health care system deserve it.