Funding for medical research in the U.S. is going down, contrary to global interest – what gives?

The United States shouldn’t worry just yet about losing the number one spot as far as disease-related research in the world goes – that’s pretty solid – but that doesn’t mean the country is steadily moving forward the way it could or should. A study published online in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA demonstrates […]

The United States shouldn’t worry just yet about losing the number one spot as far as disease-related research in the world goes – that’s pretty solid – but that doesn’t mean the country is steadily moving forward the way it could or should.

A study published online in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA demonstrates that the U.S. funded 57 percent of the biomedical research in the world a decade ago, but it has now dropped to 44 percent.

“At the same time support for biomedical research in the United States has wavered, global interest in biomedical research is increasing,” wrote Dr. Hamilton Moses III, founder of Alerion Advisors, and his five co-authors on the paper.

While the study reports that China is still far behind the U.S. as far as research spending goes, the country’s efforts went up 17 percent between 2004 and 2011 (compared to 1 percent for the U.S.) and more Chinese citizens work in science and technology fields than Americans.

“For any current or future patient, research provides hope,” the scientists wrote. “For the researcher, unanswered biological and clinical questions are endlessly fascinating. For a company or its investors, new products and services promise financial return.”

The industry has increased its spending on biomedical research overall, but that’s not true for pharmaceutical firms, for example, which actually reduced their spending slightly between 2004 and 2012, the study says.

“Given global trends, the United States will relinquish its historical innovation lead in the next decade,” the researchers say. That is, unless private and public funding increases.

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“The main reason to increase expenditures on biomedical research and health services research is to capitalize on the investment already made in the past — to put that knowledge to work at the bedside, in real patients,” Moses told NPR.