Many New Drugs Benefit from Taxpayer-Funded Research

An analysis published in BMJ found that, over the last decade, one in four new medicines benefitted from publicly funded late-stage research or spinoff companies created by public research institutions. Publicly financed drugs also were approved more quickly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than those developed through private research.

Out of 248 drugs containing one or more new molecular entities approved by the FDA between January 2008 and December 2017, 48 (19%) were a result of taxpayer-supported research and development. Additionally, 14 of those medications (6%) were developed by spinoff companies from publicly funded research programs.

The drugs that benefitted from publicly supported research were 1.7 times more likely to be called a first-in-class treatment and 1.4 times more likely to receive approvals through expedited review pathways. These findings suggest that government funding and research contributes significantly to late-stage drug development.

“It turns out that U.S. taxpayers are the ones that are not only funding that upstream basic science research that make all drug discovery possible, but are actually funding the invention of a substantial portion of new drugs,” lead author Rahul Nayak, MD, told STAT.

The analysis mentioned the development of midostaurin and venetoclax in acute myeloid leukemia.

Source: Nayak RK, Avorn J, Kesselheim AS. Public sector financial support for late stage discovery of new drugs in the United States: cohort study. BMJ. 2019;367:I5766; STAT, October 23, 2019.