Medicines industry

What is the issue:

Ensuring the Government and the Australian community understand, accept and gain from the broader health, social and economic value and wider community benefits of new and emerging medicines, vaccines and biotherapeutics.

Why is it important:

A healthy population leads to a strong and healthy economy – no more apparent than Australia’s recent experience with vaccination against COVID-19. A healthy population enhances wellbeing, employment, productivity gains, and derives second order benefits (Government tax revenue and less spending on social services). One of the objectives of the current National Medicines Policy Policy (NMP) is for Australia to have a responsible and viable medicines industry. Medicines Australia asserts the need for a thriving (not just “viable”) medicines industry to better support a healthy population and a healthy economy.


  1. It is critical that government policies encourage investments in the medicines industry, facilitate broader research programs and enable rapid and efficient access to new treatments as soon as they become available.
  2. Due to the increasing acceptance that healthcare expenditure enhances economic productivity, policy makers must also implement appropriate policies at the macroeconomic level which are targeted at public health (medicines) expenditure, research, STEM education/work skills and economic development. A number of Government reviews are currently underway, and the opportunity must not be missed to recognise the value that medicines and the medicines industry can provide to Australians.


The medicines industry works with the Australian Government to ensure optimal patient outcomes through access to new and emerging medicines and vaccines, and contributes to a healthy, productive and diverse economy where innovation, investment and jobs are created.

This depends on faster medicines access through regulatory and reimbursement processes and a stable and predictable business operating environment to encourage investment. The opportunity to invigorate the medicines industry exists now. Three reviews have been completed or are underway:

  1. The House of Representatives recommendations stemming from the HOR Inquiry into access to new drugs and innovative medical technologies1
  2. National Medicines Policy Review
  3. Health Technology Assessment Review

Medicines Australia’s Position

Issues for the Economy:

Public polling research conducted by Research Australia2 in 2021 recorded 83.5% of Australians wanting more funding in health and medical research. It follows that the economic opportunities and economic benefits of the medicines industry are strongly supported by the general public.

The COVID-19 pandemic starkly demonstrated the impact of illness on the Australian economy. Australia’s high COVID-19 vaccination rates has allowed the Australian economy to re-open translating into the highest GDP quarterly growth (to March 2022) in decades. The Australian Government’s recent 2021 announcement to develop a national health and medical research strategy (Vision 2040) recognised the value of health in the Nation’s economic productivity.

Medicines Australia Recommendation:

Policy makers must implement appropriate policies at the macroeconomic level which are targeted at public health (medicines) expenditure and value the economic impact provided by our medicines and our industry. Public/Private partnerships is one example whereby Governments can benefit from the medicines industry’s know-how.

Key Fact:

Ranked in the top 20, the value of pharmaceutical exports in 2019-20 was $3.6 billion3 – a 22% increase on the preceding financial year

Issue for Clinical Trials

Clinical trials contribute to the global efforts to find, discover and develop the latest breakthrough medicines and they facilitate earlier and faster access to new treatments, bring health professionals together to deliver better care for patients, encourage patients to actively participate in their care; and provide economic benefit to the community.

Australia is an optimal market for testing innovative breakthroughs in therapeutics due in part to a strong clinical and medical research infrastructure4.

Despite having significant benefits for Australia, clinical trials are difficult to set up in Australia due to long start-up times, high costs, and fragmented systems between States and Territories.

Medicines Australia Recommendation:

Australia can become a global hub for clinical trials by the end of this decade. This requires the development and implementation of a 10-year plan to make this happen. Australia is competing in a global environment to secure access to clinical trials, and therefore it is incumbent on the Australian Governments, in partnership with key clinical trial stakeholders, to develop and implement a 10-year plan (including regulatory and governance framework for clinical trials).

An element of this is for the Federal, State and Territory Governments to work with industry and clinical trial stakeholders to implement the One Stop Shop and Front Door recommendations with haste. For additional information, please refer to our brief on Clinical Trials.

Key Facts:

  • Clinical trials are estimated to be worth around $1.4 billion to the Australian economy each year5.
  • Over 100 new clinical trials are registered in Australia every month6

Additional References

Schofield, D et al, ‘Medicines Deliver Value for Patients and the Community’, Medicines Australia occasional paper series, paper 6, from report by Professor Schofield, ‘Measuring labour productivity and the benefits of interventions …’ 2016.