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Proposed cuts to National Institutes of Health could delay up to 90% of US drug approvals

Published on 27/11/17 at 09:36am

President Donald Trump’s budget proposes to cut funding to the National Institutes of Health by $7.2 billion or 21%. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine assert that this is a move which, given that the NIH funded more than 90% of new drugs, could prove to have dramatic consequences.

The team analysed past budget data from NIH to discover how funding from the institute played a role in the early development of commonly prescribed drug treatments, particularly those which were approved by the FDA in the last decade. It was found that there was a strong link between the two, with 93% of such drugs having received funding – a figure which rose to 97% between 2010 and 2016.

“NIH funding is instrumental in the early research needed to develop FDA-approved medicines. Our data suggest that the development of newer drugs is becoming even more dependent on NIH funding,” explained Michael S Kinch, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University and Director of its Center for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Center for Drug Discovery.. “The average cost of developing a new medicine is $1 billion to $3 billion, and at the earliest stages of research, there is more uncertainty and the risks are bigger, so pharmaceutical companies have focused their efforts on spending during later stages of development, as drugs move through clinical trials.” 

“Cutting the NIH budget could dismantle our ability to address real problems,” he continued. “Take antibiotics, for example. We’ve grown accustomed to being able to treat infections, but now bacteria are becoming resistant to existing drugs. If funding cuts slow the development of new infection-fighting medicines, then in future years, many people may die from infections that once were treatable.”

Matt Fellows

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