The US House of Representative has a new initiative for biomedical R& D “the 21st Century Cures Act “ (1) . While the overall goal of this initiative, to advance new therapies, is laudable, as usual the politicians have gotten the details screwed up. Essentially what this initiative does is to provide financial rewards such as increased patent lifetimes to companies that engage in research in targeted areas (eg Alzheimers). It also provides directives to the NIH to strategize research.
The first aspect is just off base. Why do we need to incentivize drug companies to conduct research in vital public health areas? Why not simply use the type of non-profit public-private partnerships that have been so successful in developing drugs for malaria, TB and other diseases of less-developed countries? (2). Do we really need to squander public resources to fatten the wallets of Big Pharma executives?
The second aspect amounts to an unfunded mandate for the NIH. What is really needed to stimulate R&D in this country is to get the NIH and other research agencies back on a growth path.
2. see Science and Public Policy. 40: 393-405, 2013