NIH Funding Fewer Clinical Trials

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a key supporter of promising treatments without enough commercial potential to garner industry dollars, is funding fewer clinical trials than in previous years. According to research conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the journal Clinical Trials, the number of trials funded annually from 2005 to 2015 fell more than 40 percent, from 1,580 to 930.

Phase III trials, which provide conclusive evidence of the effectiveness and safety of a candidate drug or other intervention, fell more sharply than those for any other phase trial, from 230 in 2005 to just 62 in 2015.

Although the median number of trial participants did not change significantly from year to year, for the entire period, it was only 64. “The sample size is a serious issue,” said senior author Curtis Meinert, PhD, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. “The NIH trial sizes in general seem to have been too small – many would have been unlikely to detect meaningful differences in outcomes.”

The researchers noted that the decline in the annual number of NIH-funded trials is due at least partly to the decline in the NIH budget once inflation is considered.

Sources: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health press release, February 13, 2018; The Baltimore Sun, February 13, 2018.