Category Archives: public health

Question

Have any of you ever heard a pharma executive say something like this to their investors:

We ask you to recognize that your investment in our company may not be as profitable to you as it has been historically. At the same time, we ask you to recognize that our scientific efforts serve a fundamental public good, the improvement of human health. We seek to maintain our talented and dedicated workforce because we feel that this human capital is the best way for us to achieve our underlying goal: to provide safe, innovative and life-saving medicines for people that need them. This can only be achieved through a more thorough understanding of what this industry strives to accomplish and we ask you, as investors, to consider what you intend to accomplish through your investment in our company.

I know, I’m a naive schmuck.

Here is some data for Southern AZ peeps, if they’re gonna call Congressional Offices

Inspired by a DrugMonkey post, here is some useful data on NIH funding for those in Southern Arizona.

Congressional 8th District: Giffords
DC phone: (202) 225-2542
Tucson phone: (520) 881-3588
Total NIH funding = $5,760,729
UA is technically not in Gifford’s district so most of this is to private companies, but we all know those companies locate here due to interactions with UA (or are spinoffs from UA).
Most of us UA funded NIHers live in Gabby’s district so its probably also worthwhile knowing data for Congressional 7 (physically contains UA)…

Congressional 7th District: Grijalva
DC phone (202) 225-2435
Tucson phone (520) 622-6788
Total NIH funding = $187,058,087
Almost all of that is to UA. Not small potatoes! A 3% cut on that means a $5,611,743 hit to the Tucson economy. That number is slightly exaggerated due research expenditures that leave here but assuming a (very reasonable) 75% salary outlay per grant its still $4,298,807.

Goldmine at NEJM

My previous post led me to peruse the Health Policy and Reform page at NEJM, which I had not seen before. Some very interesting and pertinent data and opinions there. I love this idea from Moses and Martin:

Create a New Class of Bonds
States and the federal government might issue bonds to support innovation in biomedical science and health services, with preference given to high-risk research and diseases important to public health. Such bonds have long been used to support athletic facilities, airports, and roads. They provide a mechanism for private investment to meet public needs.

Potential NIH budget cuts

Surely everyone has seen the news of the new proposal to return NIH budgets to 2008 levels. Calls for those of us in the public sector research enterprise to call or write our Congress Critters are coming from all of our professional organizations right now. If you’re going to call or write your rep, it might be worthwhile to have some numbers in hand to remind that staffer of the impact of NIH research. We all talk about impact on health outcomes, etc., and maybe some of us talk about economic impact of NIH investment but the role of NIH research in private sector development has been harder to pin down (and some of the previous adversarial industry vs. academia spats have not helped). A major argument I have heard from Republicans is that while NIH research is nice and all, the main driver for health care innovation is the private sector. The primary innovation area is widely viewed as pharmaceutical development. This brand spanking new NEJM paper throughs a serious wrench into that argument.

For the too lazy to click crowd, here is a pretty table from the paper:

My favorite part of this, and the argument I am going to use, is that new indications for existing drugs is coming almost entirely from public sector research. There are serious cost savings opportunities to be found going this route and FDA approvals for new indications is just the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately for me, my rep, who is almost always responsive to these things, is not able to do the job she has done so terrifically for the past several years right now. I have a feeling, though, that her friends, family and staff can be counted on for strong NIH funding support so I’m gonna ring up the local office.

Silence is the Enemy

Join the fight against sexual crimes against women by participating in the “Silence is the Enemy” campaign. Read Nicholas Kristof’s NYTimes piece that inspired Sheril Kirstenbaum’s post on Discover Blogs starting the campaign. Join the Facebook group. And go read about science on Scienceblogs where many of the bloggers are donating their page-view proceeds to Doctors without Borders in an effort to stop the violence and to bring needed medical attention to its victims. Finally, write your congress-person and let them know that you expect to see political action to reduce crimes against women worldwide.

Health Disparities

Last night I watched part one of Unnatural causes… is inequality making us sick? on PBS. The premise of the series is that economic status + education is the single biggest determinant of health in America. This is not controversial as it is well known that life expectancy is tightly correlated with social class in stratified nations and with income in the US. What was remarkable was to see the data presented side by side with very personal stories of how poverty creates health problems which are beyond the control of individuals. Continue reading