U.S. spending on biomedical research has declined, and now represents less than one-half of such spending worldwide. The New England Journal of Medicine says research spending by China and Japan has increased dramatically during the past five years, but those countries still spend about half as much as the United States.
The United States funded 51 percent of the world's biomedical research in 2007, but by 2012 its share fell to 45 percent. Medical researchers and economists who prepared the new analysis said Asia's share of spending increased by one-third over that same period, from 18 to 24 percent, which Europe's investment in medical research held steady at 29 percent.
The analysts said the decline in U.S. spending on research was primarily due to reduced investment by private industry, although government institutions such as the National Institutes of Health also have reduced resources.
The study said the shift toward Asia for biomedical research, including clinical trials of new drugs, may be due to lower labor costs and less regulation by governments.
Previous analyses have pegged the U.S. share of global medical reseach spending as high as 80 percent. Authors of the new study note that the traditional U.S. leading role in research and development has been vital to the country's long-term economic health, including job creation. They called on government leaders to provide more funding for research, and to develop incentives for private companies to invest in health research in the United States.
The study appears in the January 2 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.