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US medical research spending rises, results lag

September 20, 2005

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Annual U.S. spending on medical
research doubled in the past decade to more than $94 billion in
2003, but the additional dollars have yielded only
disappointing results, a study said on Tuesday.

“There aren’t a lot of diseases where we can point to and
say we have an answer today that we didn’t have a decade ago,”
said Dr. Hamilton Moses of The Alerion Institute, a North
Garden, Virginia, think tank that evaluates research policy.

Doctors were frustrated at not having cures to offer
patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or childhood
diseases, such as autism and juvenile diabetes, he said.

“It raises the question (of) are we getting our money’s
worth? Are we capturing the full value of that significant
investment?” Moses said.

Total U.S. spending on medical research derived primarily
from corporate, government and charitable sources doubled to
$94.3 billion in 2003 versus 1994, after adjusting for
inflation, according to the report published in this week’s
issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Industry funded about 57 percent of the total, the U.S.
government provided 28 percent and charities and foundations
about 5 percent.

“Foundations have a vital role to play,” the report said.
“They are able to support research that is risky scientifically
(and politically) for scientists who are going in a very new
area that may be extremely important.”

The development of useful new drugs has lagged compared to
research results produced by the biotech and medical device
industries, the study said. Pharmaceutical companies created an
average of 23 new molecular compounds between 2001 and 2004,
down from 35.5 per year from 1994 to 1997.

The report said pharmaceutical companies frequently decide
that compounds approved by regulators are not worth bringing to
market because they would compete with existing drugs that are
safe and effective.

“For all sponsors, the challenge is patience. Biomedical
research is an inherently high risk and lengthy process,” Moses
said.

While the United States spends nearly 6 percent of its
health expenditures on biomedical research, more than any other
nation, the report criticized the minimal outlays for research
on evaluating the new cures.




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