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Throwing Money at It

Despite increased investment in research, there has not been a corresponding increase in improved health outcomes, according to an analysis by Anthony Bowen and Arturo Casadevall from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

"The idea of public support for biomedical research is to make lives better. But there is increasing friction in the system," Casadevall says in a statement. "We are spending more money now just to get the same results we always have and this is going to keep happening if we don't fix things."

As the pair reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it determined the number of New Molecular Entities approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, as an estimate of the outcome of biomedical research. They also considered patents and life expectancy as alternative measures of biomedical research outcomes.

While the National Institutes of Health's budget has increased slightly more than four-fold since 1965 and the number of scientists has increased more than nine-fold, Bowen and Casadevall report that the number of new approved drugs increased a little more than two-fold. At the same time, life expectancy gains have remained about constant. They also calculated biomedical research efficiency for each year to find that it dropped from 2000 to 2014.

The pair suggests that increased regulations and added non-scientific burdens on researchers could be contributing to this decreased efficiency. They note, though, that it could also be due to researchers tackling more complicated scientific questions.

"Scientists, regulators, and citizens need to take a hard look at the scientific enterprise and see which are problems that can be resolved," Casadevall adds. "We need a system with rigor, reproducibility and integrity and we need to find a way to get there as soon as we can."

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