Printer icon Print Page

Benefits of Employer-Sponsored Specialty Medications Extend Beyond The Workplace

Ottawa, September 12, 2016–The increased use of specialty medications to treat a widening array of chronic conditions has raised concerns for Canadian employers about how to manage the rising costs of employer-sponsored benefits. A new Conference Board of Canada report, however, finds that benefits of specialty medications provided by organizations are real and extend well beyond the workplace of the employee to include benefits to other companies, the economy and the health care system. 

The report, The Value of Specialty Medications: An Employer Perspective, examines the benefits of specialty medications in treating three chronic diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). It finds that the average annual benefit to society from treatments involving specialty medications range from $6,600 to $17,000 depending on the disease.

“Canadian employers need to understand the wider benefits associated with specialty medications,” said Mary-Lou MacDonald, Director, Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety Research, The Conference Board of Canada. “Specialty medications often improve employee productivity, while at the same time reducing caregiving needs and strain on the health system.”


  • The increased use of specialty medications to treat a growing array of chronic conditions has Canadian employers asking how to manage the rising costs of employer-sponsored benefits.
  • Societal benefits of specialty medications include a decrease in caregiving needs of working relatives and reduced use of healthcare resources, which total an estimated $6,600 to $17,000 per employee in benefits depending on the disease.
  • A competitive and comprehensive benefit plan plays a role in helping employers recruit and retain employees.

Specialty medications are defined as any medication with a cost of at least $10,000 per person per year during maintenance therapy in the context of treating -chronic diseases for employees and their dependants. Often times, these medications can delay the progression of conditions, alleviate symptoms, prevent or delay relapses. They can also allow employees to return to, or become more productive, at work.

While the level of benefits differs by disease and the perspective by which they are viewed, financially they can generate annual workplace related benefits that range from $3,800 to $6,000 per employee for a plan-sponsoring employer, through reduced sick leave and increased productivity. Beyond financial benefits, a competitive and comprehensive benefits plan – that includes employer-sponsored speciality medications–also plays a role in helping employers recruit and retain employees. 

The benefits of specialty medications also extend beyond the workplace to include a decrease in caregiving needs of working relatives and reduced use of healthcare resources. These benefits amount to $2,100 to $11,000 per employee in gains over and above those realized by the plan-sponsoring employer. 

“Considering the significant benefits that accrue to society from employer-sponsored benefit plan coverage, cost-sharing arrangements with other stakeholders, including government merit further consideration in order to improve access to specialty medications,” suggested Ms. MacDonald.

The Value of Specialty Medications: An Employer Perspective is the second report in a two-part series. The first report, Specialty Medications: Background Information for Employers, was published in July. The research was sponsored by Innovative Medicines Canada, Crohn's and Colitis Canada, Amgen, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi Canada, and Sun Life Financial.


For more information contact

Corporate Communications

Monthly Newsletter

Get updates about Conference Board research and events by signing up for our monthly newsletter.

RSS Feed

RSS Feed  Subscribe to the Conference Board’s News Release RSS Feed

Access Our Research

Access to The Conference Board’s reports is free of charge to professional journalists upon request.

Access Our Experts

We have a team of experienced researchers and economists who are able to comment on current events or share their expertise for news features.

Recent News Releases

Le tabagisme a coûté plus de 16 milliards de dollars à l’économie canadienne en 2012

October 16, 2017

Smoking Costs Canadian Economy More Than $16 Billion In 2012

October 16, 2017

Bryan Benjamin Joins The Conference Board of Canada as Vice-President, Organizational Performance

October 03, 2017

Recent Speeches and Op-Eds

What immigration target should Ottawa set for 2018?

October 05, 2017

Three challenges facing Alberta amid the province’s new economic reality

September 28, 2017

How far does the Bank of Canada need to go with its rate hikes?

September 15, 2017

Connect with Us