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  • September 13, 2016
  • ACC

The Benefits of Chlorine Chemistry in Pharmaceuticals in the United States and Canada

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Executive summary

Pharmaceutical products are an essential component of the almost $3 trillion health care systems of the United States and Canada. In 2012, sales of pharmaceutical products in all settings amounted to $345 billion in the U.S. and another $30 billion in Canada, or $375 billion overall. Sales of nutritional products and other sundry products are not included in these figures.

The costs of the other components of the health care system far exceeded the cost of pharmaceuticals, yet the use of pharmaceuticals can be viewed as a critical factor in reducing total health care costs as well as improving the quality of life for those who use them. Without effective and safe pharmaceutical products, patients would place greater demands on physician visits or experience longer lengths of stays in nursing homes and hospitals.

For consumers of pharmaceutical products, the direct economic gain of chlorine chemistry can be measured as the opportunity cost of the next best health care alternative. In other words, what would it cost consumers to purchase a substitute product or utilize a different treatment regime. For this analysis, we have evaluated the composition and manufacturing processes for the top-selling one hundred drugs sold in the U.S. in 2012. Chlorine chemistry is widely used in the production of these pharmaceutical products – 25% of these drugs contain chlorine in the dose form and over 60% of them use chlorine chemistry in the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process may use chlorine-containing intermediates, for example, which lose their identity during the course of building up the molecule from smaller constituents. Thus, chlorine chemistry is employed in the manufacture of 88% of the top-selling drugs – less than 12% have no association with chlorine chemistry.

For U.S. and Canadian consumers, the net direct economic benefit of chlorine chemistry in pharmaceuticals is estimated to be of the order of $320 billion per year, a mid-range estimate lying between a lower bound of $230 billion and an upper bound of $640 billion. At this level, the benefits amount to about 110% of the cost of these drugs. Since effective use of pharmaceuticals improves consumers’ wellbeing as well as reducing costs in the healthcare system itself, the total benefits of chlorine chemistry to consumers exceed the direct benefits estimated in this research.

This analysis validates previous research on the economic importance of chlorine chemistry in this sector and suggests that chlorine chemistry will continue to provide substantial benefits to consumers of pharmaceuticals well into the future. The benefits are extremely large relative to the amount of chlorine that is consumed to produce them.


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