Policy

Spend for a Cure?

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Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1620
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6089.1620-b

Advocates for public spending on biomedical research proclaim the importance of such investments in developing treatments for disease. Government-funded research indeed affects aspects of commercial drug development. Yet many features of this relationship remain unclear. Blume-Kohout compiled longitudinal data from six sources, including a commercial database of pharmaceutical R&D, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) project descriptions and awards. She analyzed how changes in the way NIH allocated research funds targeting 67 different diseases affected the number of drugs being developed to treat those diseases. Consistent with prior research, analysis of grants awarded from 1975 through 2006 showed that a sustained 10% funding increase targeting a specific disease led to a 4.5% increase in the number of drugs targeting that disease entering Phase I clinical trials, with a lag of up to 12 years. In contrast, she found no evidence that changes in the allocation of funds across the NIH disease portfolio affect industry's decisions to invest in Phase III clinical trials for treatments for those diseases. Thus, NIH funding influences the early stages of drug discovery and testing but may not affect the later, more costly stages of drug development.

J. Pol. Anal. Manag. 31, 641 (2012).

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