Biopharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticals

Canada has a vibrant life sciences industry, which is composed of companies developing and manufacturing innovative medicines, generic pharmaceuticals, and over the counter (OTC) drug products, as well as medical devices. The sector is made up of five distinct groups of companies that service different market segments and include brand-name pharmaceuticals companies, generic drug firms, biopharmaceutical small and medium sized enterprises (biopharmaceutical SMEs), contract service providers (CSPs) and medical devices firms.

The Canadian pharmaceutical sector has one of the most lucrative markets. It's the 10thFootnote 1 largest market in the world with continued growth. Canada uses effective innovative products to significantly benefit the health of Canadians.

The pharmaceutical sector makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. According to Statistics Canada, drug manufacturers employed 27,000 CanadiansFootnote 2, shipped $8.87 billion worth of goods manufactured in CanadaFootnote 3, and contributed almost $5.4 billion to Canada's Gross Domestic ProductFootnote 4 in 2015. The pharmaceutical industry in Canada has close access to the U.S. market, which received 71.6% of Canadian pharmaceutical exports in 2015Footnote 5.

There is also considerable activity performed by the pharmaceutical sector in other value-added areas including wholesale, distribution, research and development and regulatory compliance. Taking into account all these activities, the 428 companies that make up the Canadian pharmaceutical sector employed 80,000 people, many of whom are highly skilled and requiring a post-secondary degree. The industry is also a significant R&D performer, conducting around 10% of all Canadian business research and development.Footnote 6

The sector plays a key role in the commercialization of science and work closely with the research community. Canadian innovators are internationally recognized for research and product development excellence in genomics, proteomics, vaccine development, medical devices, regenerative medicine (stem cells), protein engineering, immunotherapies and drug delivery systems.

In addition to the academic and scientific excellence, Canada has strength in the generation of intellectual property and in clinical development capabilities, which is demonstrated by the significant number of biopharmaceutical products in the pipeline. Canada has one of the highest number of biotechnology companies in the world, with the majority focused on human health, giving Canada a strong record of achievement in biopharmaceuticals. Canada has been rated the best country in the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations for cost-effective clinical trials and medical product testingFootnote 7. Canada has been one of the leaders in the vaccine industry with global mandates, and more recently becoming one of the centres of activity for developing HIV vaccines and related technologies.

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