On July 16, 2014, representatives from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) met with members of Congress to educate lawmakers about the importance of finding additional opportunities to invest in basic and translational biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Among those in attendance were AAOS Immediate Past President Joshua J. Jacobs, MD; Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, and Sen. John A. Barrasso, MD (R-Wyo.), who is an orthopaedic surgeon.
During the meetings, Dr. Jacobs reviewed the AAOS’ research priorities as outlined in the Academy’s Unified Research Agenda. He also illustrated the economic impact of NIH-funded research on communities, commenting that for every $1.00 the government spends on biomedical research, $2.21 goes back to the local economy. Additionally, Dr. Jacobs estimated that the nation can save $2 billion by lowering the rate of joint replacement revisions via the development of more durable medical device implants.
Dr. Katz highlighted some of the groundbreaking basic and translational research being funded by NIAMS, as well as missed opportunities and gaps in research. For example, he mentioned that NIAMS funded a recently published study in The New England Journal of Medicine that focused on the effects of bracing in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. The report was coauthored by Lori A. Dolan, PhD, and AAOS members Stuart L. Weinstein, MD; James G. Wright, MD, MPH, and Matthew B. Dobbs, MD. Results showed that bracing significantly decreased the progression of high-risk curves to the threshold for surgery in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The benefit increased with longer hours of brace wear.
Dr. Katz also reminded lawmakers that the United States exports $90 billion worth of biomedical engineering. He mentioned that the United States is falling behind China and other countries with regard to investments in biomedical research. A recent analysis of global public and private biomedical research and development investments found that from 2007 to 2012, the U.S. share, which once accounted for as much as 80 percent of global activity, fell to just 45 percent. Meanwhile, China’s share grew to 33 percent.
Over the past 10 years, research funds for the NIH have been cut by 25 percent, while Japan’s total spending on research has expanded by $9 billion.
Finally, Dr. Katz emphasized the need for NIAMS and the other agencies to invest in research conducted by young investigators.
Lawmakers were generally in agreement with the AAOS on investing in NIH-funded medical research. Both sides agreed to continue the conversation.
Elizabeth Fassbender is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at email@example.com