The role of the pharmaceutical industry is three-fold in that it drives innovation of new drugs, tests and produces these drugs safely for human use and also acts as an economic growth factor in its many locations worldwide, employing hundreds or thousands of people per plant.
Discovery and Experimentation
At its most callous level, drug innovation is most efficiently funded and driven by profit. Public funds for drug research are scarce as they are paid for by taxpayers, but businesspeople have the funds to take the risk on a potential moneymaking product. Great innovations that have been brought to completion by pharmaceutical companies include the contraceptive pill and penicillin and other antibiotics and vaccines that have saved millions of lives over the years.
Producing Health Care
With expertise gained over the decades, pharmaceutical companies produce effective medicines to high standards set by organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These medicines are then used to cure and prevent disease in the wider public.
Pharmaceutical companies can be lucrative for people who work there and for government revenues. Multinationals like Pfizer employ thousands of people. Wyeth, before being taken over by the larger company Pfizer, employed 50,000 people, a lot of whom are skilled workers earning good wages. Tax revenue from profits also adds to the public coffers.