Every year since 2006 in the U.S., the amount of new medical research in humans that’s funded by the National Institutes of Health has gone down, while the number of industry-funded trials has gone up, a new study shows.
Analyzing the ClinicalTrials.gov database – the government-run registry of publicly and privately funded clinical studies – researchers found that after trial registration became a requirement for publication in major scientific journals in 2005, the number of newly registered trials rose from 9,321 in 2006 to 18,400 in 2014.
Trials funded by NIH, the nation’s largest funder of biomedical research, dipped slightly from 1,376 in 2006 to 1,048 in 2014, while industry trials rose from 4,585 to 6,550.
Adjusted for inflation, the budget for the federal agency fell by 14 percent over this period, to $30 billion last year, which may explain some of the decrease, according to the authors of the research letter in JAMA, or the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More trials is generally a good thing, said Stephan Ehrhardt, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, because it means that more new drugs, devices or other treatments are being tested. But the decline in federally funded trials concerns public health researchers, because federally funded trials are independent, often intended to compare drugs or other treatments instead of simply to show that a product works and should gain federal approval.
The pharmaceutical industry tests its own products, while the NIH funds tests of treatment approaches, including lifestyle interventions or drug comparisons, which industry tends not to fund because they do not lead to an increase in their bottom line, said Ehrhardt, a co-author of the study.
“That’s important for the general public, I think, because if we only get industry-funded trials off the ground and given that the industry has a vested interest in the outcome of those trials then we don’t get good data to inform health of the public,” Ehrhardt said. “I’m a little bit worried about this imbalance.”
While corporate-funded trials did increase, most of the surge in registration was driven by a third “other” category, which included more than 10,000 trials by 2014. These were often conducted by researchers outside the U.S. who registered their trials in the U.S. database anyway, since ClinicalTrials.gov acts as a de-facto international registry.
(Click here to read the full article, written by Kathryn Doyle, SD Union Tribune)