A report in the Sept. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association argues that more work should be done on translating medical research into clinical applications. The report's authors also wrote that research should be guided more toward where the need is greatest -- and not just toward the biggest commercial opportunities.
Biomedical research increased to $94.3 billion in 2003 from $37.1 billion in 1994, according to the report, with about 57% coming from private industry and 28% coming from the National Institutes of Health. Funding from pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device firms rose 102% to $54.1 billion in 2003 from $26.8 billion in 1994, the report stated. (The report adjusted dollar amounts for inflation.)
Only Australia, Singapore and South Korea have increased public research funding at nearly the same rate, the report notes, and no other nation comes close to the United States in investing 5.6% of its total healthcare spending on research. Nevertheless, the report also notes that only about $1.4 billion was spent on health policy and health services research in 2002, leading the authors to conclude that, while scientific advances continue to be made, evaluation of the clinical benefits of biomedical research has fallen behind.
The authors, led by Hamilton Moses III, a physician with the Alerion Institute in North Garden, Va., also recommend increased investment in efforts to improve patient safety and to disseminate best practices. The report is one of several in a special theme issue of the JAMA focusing on the current state of biomedical research.