By Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Feb. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. National Institutes of Health spent more than $100 billion on research that led to 210 new medicines gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval over six years, a new study shows.
Nearly $64 billion of that spending was for the development of 84 first-in-class drugs that use new biological mechanisms or targets.
The study is the first to assess how government funding contributes to the development of new medicines, according to the researchers from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.
"While basic research can sometimes seem esoteric, our analysis shows that a substantial fraction of NIH-funded, basic research can be directly linked to the medicines first approved in this decade," senior study author Dr. Fred Ledley said in a university news release. He's director of the school's Center for Integration of Science and Industry.
"This data underscores the critical impact of government funding for basic biomedical research on the drug discovery and development process," Ledley said. "Any reduction in this funding would inevitably slow the pipeline of new treatments for diseases that the public so desperately needs."
The study team analyzed more than 2 million published research reports directly linked to the 210 new medicines approved by the FDA between 2010 and 2016, or to their biological targets. Of those reports, 600,000 were connected with NIH-funded research projects that involved more than 200,000 fiscal years of research funding and more than $100 billion in total cost, according to the study.
More than 90 percent of that amount was directly associated with research on the biological targets for drug action, rather than the drugs themselves, and represents basic biomedical research, the study authors explained.
The researchers said this type of basic research is "an enabling step leading to the discovery and development of new medicines for untreatable diseases."
The findings were published online Feb. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.