Increase in research dollars may not be well spent

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 17, 2005

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Funding for medical research has increased significantly, but this is not necessarily translating to medical advances, according to a study in the Sept. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers compiled data from various levels of government as well as foundations, charities, universities and private industry. Biomedical research funding from all sources increased from $37.1 billion in 1994 to $94.3 billion in 2003. When adjusted for inflation, this meant that the amount of money spent doubled. Dollars from private and public sources increased at the same rate.

Authors praised the increase in funding for medical research but questioned how the money was being spent. For example, 5.6% of the United States' total health expenditures are for biomedical research, but only 0.1% is for health services research. The money spent also led to a significant increase in the production of new medical devices but not quite as many new pharmaceuticals.

"The low proportion of spending on health services research is especially notable, since it is the main tool available to evaluate the clinical benefit of technology," wrote the authors.

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