While growth in spending in 2018 over the six-year reporting period is a positive sign, the size of our investment in life-saving research is dwarfed by the weight of disease burden.
Total U.S. investment in medical and health research and development (R&D) grew by 6.4% from 2017 to 2018, reaching $194.2 billion. For the third year in a row, the growth-rate of medical and health R&D investment outpaced the growth-rate of overall health spending. However, R&D spending still represents only about 5 cents of every health dollar spent. This is one of the key findings of the just-released 2019 U.S. Investments in Medical and Health Research and Development, a new report from Research!America.
According to Research!America’s Chair, the Honorable Michael N. Castle, “Our nation’s total investment is not tracking with disease burden.”
Every year, almost 130,000 people in the United States die by the age of 45 due to health threats that a larger investment in R&D could help us better understand and ultimately prevent. Further, major chronic diseases cost our nation more than $1.1 trillion in 2018, which is almost six times the amount all sectors spend on R&D.
“Increased investment across all sectors contributing to R&D is the right path for our nation, but relative to unmet medical needs, we are walking, rather than running down that path,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Federal funding and policies need to be aligned behind the objective of empowering both public sector and private sector-driven research, because research saves lives.”
To place current spending in context, federal spending on medical and health R&D amounts to approximately $43 billion, representing about 1% of the federal budget; spending on national defense, at about $629 billion, represents approximately 14%. Yet research, too, protects and saves American lives.
According to the report, it is time for our country to dramatically accelerate our science output, stoking the engine of discovery and development and fostering cross sector solutions to formidable, but surmountable, challenges in health and health care. It is not a matter of potential–across every sector described in this report, the talent and commitment exists to exponentially increase medical and public health progress. It is a matter of will.