Who Is Funding The Fight Against Disease?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 15 2015 @ 1:15pm

Drug Funding

America is no longer the only game in town:

Though the United States is still leading the world in research related to diseases, it is rapidly losing its edge, according to an analysis in the American Medical Association’s flagship journal JAMA. If you look at biomedical research around the globe, the United States funded 57 percent of that work a decade ago. The U.S. share has since dropped to 44 percent, according to the study published online Tuesday.

Jason Millman adds that “medical investment in the United States grew at just .8 percent per year between 2004-2012, a major slowdown from the 6 percent annual growth between 1994 and 2004.” And, using the above chart as evidence, he questions how wisely that money is being spent:

It’s not just that the investment is slipping, the authors argue. The funding priorities are leaving major research gaps. In all, 27 diseases account for 84 percent of U.S. mortality, but together they receive just 48 percent of funding from the National Institutes of Health. Some diseases, like cancer and HIV/AIDS, get funded at better rates than predicted based on the disease burden, while others like stroke and depression fall short, according to an analysis by study author Hamilton Moses III of Alerion Advisors. Research into migraines is particularly underfunded, even though 36 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, suffer from migraine headaches, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

Bill Gardner thinks America’s declining dominance is a “concern only to the degree that the US is doing less than it could”:

The growth of investment in health research across the rest of the world is only to the good. But here is the thing that shocked me. The authors looked at what health systems (that is, hospitals and hospital systems) and insurers invest in improving the services they provide. I would have hoped that insurers — who finance health care — and health systems — who deliver care to patients — would have invested significantly in service innovations. This is not the case. …

To get a sense of how little health systems (that is, hospitals and larger integrated systems) invest in improving their product, you should know that the median US industry invests about 2% of its revenue in research and development. Health system investment in service innovation is an order of magnitude less than that.