To Improve Global Health through Research…
Government Should Lead the Way
The drug industry makes research investment decisions based on potential financial returns. The truth is, drug companies are less willing to invest in developing global health products because these products will be sold in poorer countries, and there is less potential for profit. For example, cardiovascular disease affects the same number of people as TB and neglected tropical diseases, but between 1975 and 2004, 170 drugs were developed for cardiovascular disease and only 21 were developed for TB and neglected tropical diseases.
The private market has failed to successfully address global diseases, so the government needs to step in and fill the gap for the public good. NIH and the CDC are already conducting research on malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, and tropical diseases, but their funding levels are inadequate to meet the global need.
We Need to Invest More
Worldwide, investments in global infectious disease research are small compared to the toll these diseases take on nations’ health and economies. The U.S. investment falls short, as well.
NIH invests less than one-half of one percent of its budget on malaria research, even though malaria is the leading cause of death among children under five in Africa, existing treatments are losing effectiveness, and there is no vaccine.
NIH invests just one-half of one percent of its budget on TB research, even though TB resurgence, and the emergence of extensively drug resistant strains, is a threat to world health.
NIH invests just two percent of its budget on research into AIDS vaccines and preventive microbicides, even though 4 million people become newly infected with HIV every year.
NIH does not separately report spending on neglected tropical diseases, presumably because the amount allocated is so small, even though these diseases threaten 1 billion people worldwide.
The CDC invests in research on TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other parasitic diseases, but funding for the CDC’s core programs has been cut for several years, hampering its global health efforts.
Worldwide funding of approximately $1 billion—about .03 percent of the U.S. federal budget—would adequately fund the research and development of malaria drugs and vaccines. $1 billion would fund annual costs for AIDS vaccine research. Less than $1 billion would be needed annually to fund TB drug and vaccine development. And the U.S. would need to provide only a share of the funding.
The amount needed to fight global diseases isn’t that great when put in perspective.
NIH and CDC Funding Are Critical
Research is the key to making real progress in global health, and adequate funding is essential. Overall NIH funding has been level or effectively cut for the past several years. If the NIH’s funding for global health research is increased by a small amount over several years, NIH could meet its share of the global research need.
In order to fight global diseases, the government needs to increase the overall NIH budget and direct specific funding increases to the two NIH agencies that focus the most on global health work—the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Fogarty International Center (FIC). Increasing the budget for both NIAID and the Fogarty International Center by 2.9 percent each year for the next seven years, over and above any inflation or other operating increases, would meet the global need for research funding.
Over the past several years, CDC funding has been severely reduced. In order to address current global health issues, the CDC needs $512 million. This represents a 53 percent increase in the center’s current global health budget. For more information, see CDC: Defending Global Health, Defending Our Health.