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Pharmaceuticals account for just 2pc of jobs but about a quarter of exports

THE life sciences industry doesn't create that many jobs but it is Viagra for the country's overseas sales, accounting for around a quarter of all exports while employing little more than 2pc of the workforce.

As exports of traditional goods such as food and drink flagged during the credit crunch, pharmaceuticals continued to power ahead.

Ireland was one of the very few countries across the globe last year to see exports actually rise despite the desperate state of the economy here and the shrinking world economy.

The life sciences sector, which includes drugs and medical devices, accounted for more than €40bn of Irish exports last year or a third of all the exports from the country's multinational sector.

Six of the world's 10 best-selling drugs are made here including an increasing number of biologic drugs such as botox which are made from living organisms instead of chemicals.

These drugs are increasingly being used to treat arthritis, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

They're expensive for drug-makers to produce and for patients to purchase: the rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade can cost about $20,000 a year for US patients.

The United States is currently considering changes to the law to give market exclusivity to biologic drugs for 12 years after their patent expires.

All drugs currently get five years.

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