December 24, 2006
EU Massively Behind US In Noncommercial Cancer Research Funding

A Plos Medicine article reviews the sources of cancer funding in the European Union and the United States and finds Europe is greatly lagging in per capita spending in cancer research from funding sources which are not for-profit businesses. The US federal government's National Cancer Institute alone (not the only source of cancer research funding at the federal level) spends more than two and a half times the total spent by all non-commercial sources for cancer research in Europe.

In our survey, we identified 139 noncommercial funding organisations that collectively spent 1.43 billion on cancer research for the year spanning 2002–2003. Absolute spending in 2002/2003 on cancer research varied widely across the EU, ranging from 388 million in the United Kingdom to 0 in Malta, with three countries spending greater than 100 million, nine greater than 10 million, and ten less than 1 million. Of all the countries in the survey, only Bulgaria failed to report their spending, and only Malta spent nothing on cancer research in 2002/2003 (Figure 1).

In Euros the 3.6 billion for the US National Cancer Institute is more than two and a half times the 1.43 spent by all European noncommercial sources.

The EU spends a greater proportion of its cancer research funding on cancer biology than does the US (41% compared with 25%). The US spends a greater proportion of its cancer research funding on research into prevention and treatment than does the EU (prevention, 9% in the US compared with 4% in the EU; treatment, 25% in the US compared with 20% in the EU) (Figure 2). Data published by the US National Cancer Institute has been fully validated, whereas the EU uses self-reported, top-level CSO categories for 62% (n = 74) of the organisations from which financial data was obtained. The size of the two pie charts in Figure 2 is representative of the sizes of the annual budgets: in 2002/2003, the US National Cancer Institute spent 3.60 billion, compared with the EU spending of 1.43 billion.

But wait, the gap is even bigger.

The average per capita spent across the entire EU (including European Commission and Trans-European Organisation spending) was 2.56 (US$3.30), while the per capita spent in the US was 17.63 (US$22.76)—seven times greater. This gap is reduced to 5-fold if the US spending is compared with the spending of the 15 EU countries only (Figure 5). Average cancer research spending as a percentage of GDP across the EU was 0.0152%, and the median was 0.0056%. As a percentage of GDP, the US spent four times as much as the average across the entire European survey; this difference remained the same when the US percentage was compared with the percentage spending by the 15 EU member states.

I would be happy to see Europe try to seriously compete with the United States in biomedical science funding. I would be happy to see Europe act more pro-life and anti-death and less lame and pathetic. We would all benefit if the European countries tried as hard as America to conquer cancer and a large variety of other old age killers. Do I even need to mention that the general advances in biomedical science and technology that come from research on diseases of old age will inevitably produce biotechnologies we need for rejuvenation therapies?

In his entry in his "Scream this from the rooftops" series Alex Tabarrok came across a research paper with evidnce that European drug price controls are causing Europeans to produce far less commercially funded medical advances as well.

EU countries closely regulate pharmaceutical prices whereas the U.S. does not. This paper shows how price constraints affect the profitability, stock returns, and R&D spending of EU and U.S. firms. Compared to EU firms, U.S. firms are more profitable, earn higher stock returns, and spend more on research and development (R&D). Some differences have increased over time. In 1986, EU pharmaceutical R&D exceeded U.S. R&D by about 24 percent, but by 2004, EU R&D trailed U.S. R&D by about 15 percent. During these 19 years, U.S. R&D spending grew at a real annual compound rate of 8.8 percent, while EU R&D spending grew at a real 5.4 percent rate. Results show that EU consumers enjoyed much lower pharmaceutical price inflation, however, at a cost of 46 fewer new medicines introduced by EU firms and 1680 fewer EU research jobs.

Europeans, like most of the rest of the world, are freeloading off of US medical research funded by our federal government, states, private foundations, and private sector companies. We would all benefit if they stepped up to the plate and spent on medical research as much as Americans do.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 December 24 09:43 PM  Policy Medical

Robert Schwartz said at December 24, 2006 11:24 PM:

Yet another are where Europe freeloads off the US and falls behind. Still want socialized medicine? Be careful of what you wish for.

aa2 said at December 25, 2006 1:12 AM:

Medical research I believe is something the European Union can do more effectively then each individual nation.. or at least direct the effort. I've read the Lisbon protocal and I believe the EU is quite serious about increasing R&D.. but whether the political will is there to push it through is up for question.

Lets hope they increase spending over the following years on medical research.. And imagine if one like the UK got itself set up as the biggest anti-aging research node in the world.. that will be a goldmine down the road. Which btw I've heard promising things about the UK's stem cell research.

David Govett said at December 25, 2006 8:35 AM:

Perhaps Europeans do less research because many of their best researchers are in the U.S. because there is more research money, which is why there is less research in Europe, which is why the researchers leave for the U.S. Whew!

Pat Freihof said at December 25, 2006 5:55 PM:

Not for profit suggests the research dough is coming from donations, wills etc. It's easy to figure that some well off industrialist in his later years becomes remorseful about all the shit he had helped to release into our biosphere. As he finally falls terminally ill he gets acquainted with the immensely money hungry, already blown out beyond all proportions, therapeutical monstrosities.
Somehow he is led to think that by pouring ever more funding into their R'nD coffers one day these facilities can protect present and future generations from the fallout of our distorted biosphere.
Maybe, just maybe cases like this happen to exist in greater numbers where most of the environmental disasters were initiated and where people got awarded the most for reinforcing a system which thrives on attacking the biosphere of their own inhabitants.

I know this will disturb many individuals, but may I seriously suggest to direct any superfluous funds to cleanup projects like reafforestation etc.
Cleaning up our environment has, besides the obvious benefits, yet another hidden one: it makes you feel good - a powerful anticancer additive.....

Ned said at December 26, 2006 6:36 AM:

I don't know about the freeloading. Cancer theraputics doesn't come cheap. Yes, a scientific discovery in the US (or anywhere else) is published and eventually benefits all mankind. But the funds for this research ultimately support the US biotechnology industry, one of the few shining stars in the American economy and a source of large profits (and lots of good jobs) for American companies. Sure, the Europeans (or anyone else) can use the scientific breakthroughs that are funded by the US government. But a lot of this stuff ends up being sold at rather nice prices, courtesy of the US biotechnology industry. The infrastructure in the US to support this kind of work is much stronger in the US than in Europe.

Tony (UK) said at December 28, 2006 5:45 AM:

As you can tell from my .sig, I'm from the UK - which is NOT in Europe, although due to some unbelievably stupid decisions from politicians in the 60's and 70's, and the continuing connivance of a whole cadre of tit-suckers, we are (at the moment) embroiled in that humungous ponzi scheme called the EU. I hope you will forgive me that vitriolic outburst, but to see your country be sold down the river to a bunch of non-democratic bureaucrats is sometimes too much to handle.

@Robert, yes socialized medicine stinks - the incentives are simply not there, the current government (NuLabour - socialists) have made some unbelievable blunders (eg led to major escalations in pay to senior medics, all for no additional productivity) and 'targets' are more important than patients. Current budget of NHS - about 80 billion pounds/year. Please see this site (NHS Sucks) for more information; You won't believe some of the stories there.

@aa2, I'm sorry but the evidence of EU collaboration is there for all to see; overruns on the Typhoon being a simple example, but the whole funding model from the EU is flawed (they haven't had their accounts signed off for the last 10 years - and the numbers involved make Enron look like a corner-shop heist) as virtually every member of the EU has to be involved in getting some of their money back (after the Brussels banqueters have had their skim), whether or not they are qualified for the work. To my shame, I was involved in an EU project, and found that after working my arse off for 8 months on an area of work, was told "don't worry about it, the commission won't read the report, as long as it weighs enough we'll be fine". At the moment, the UK is doing well in certain areas of stem cell research, but the socialist mindset (equal outcomes, not equal opportunities) is very strong in EU land and I don't know how long we'll be able to fend off unwanted attention - certainly if some major breakthrough occurs, I doubt the EU will sit around passively...

@David - I'd say that's about right. Regulation here is getting ridiculous, virtually all of it from the EU (and here's the rub, our government 'gold plates' the legislation, adding another layer of regulatory burden on our companies. Many other EU countries either pay lip-service to regulations, or ignore them all together).

@Ned - you're right. If US companies come up with some super-amazing drugs that do what I want them to do, I will buy them. If the EU say I can't have them, I will take an extended holiday in the US and get the drugs that way (and do some sight-seeing at the same time). Or I could buy them with my New Zealand credit card, have them shipped to Auckland and have a nice holiday there. Point is, that if the drugs do what people want, we *will* find a way to pay for them and use them.

The US is in a lot better shape than Europe - don't look there for your competitive spur...

morpheus said at December 28, 2006 9:32 AM:

yah they should spend more

but look what the usa has achived with its pity funding in cancer in 50 years?

almost nothing big zero

shame we should have cured cancer 20 years ago

if we would have presidents liek kenedy, not fegots who do nothin

exept atack a country once in a while

Bob Badour said at December 29, 2006 8:05 AM:

Pat Freihof,

You are barking up the wrong tree. I have flown over the US north-east, particularly upstate New York, scores of times. The majority of former farms in the area have already been reclaimed by forest. I have flown over Canada and Europe enough to know that the same cannot be said elsewhere--especially in socialist so-called environmentally friendly countries.

"Not for profit" suggests nothing about the sources of funding. I suspect much of it comes as a mix from tax based transfer payments and from the research budgets of "for profit" parent companies.

cathy said at January 22, 2007 8:29 PM:

I would agree with the acidic comment about the EU freeloading from the US if there were anything to freeload. The US is number one in per capita health spending and a dismal 72nd in terms of actual health. Who would be unintelligent enough to emulate that?

Randall Parker said at January 22, 2007 9:56 PM:


I think you are being intentionally dense. The US produces far more new treatments than Europe does. The Europeans wouldn't be able to use the medical knowledge we produce if we didn't produce it. Don't pretend not to understand it. You understand it perfectly well.

We are 72nd in actual health? By what measure?

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