The $787 Billion Stimulus Package Gets Dissected

Yesterday, Barack Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package which narrowly passed the Senate just last week. And today, courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine, we have a better idea of what that means to science and medicine.

To get all the details, you should jump straight to the source. In a nutshell, NIH funding increases by $10 billion, compared to a total budget of $29.5 billion last year. Plus, just over $1 billion will go to support various wellness programs and training for health professionals.

It’s clear that doctors and related scientists won’t be hurting any time soon, although the stimulus package mandates significant changes to the way doctors manage and safeguards patient information. But perhaps the biggest winner falls into an area you may have heard little about. Well, we suspect that will change shortly.

There is a branch of medical studies called comparative effectiveness research which recently received a nice bump, upwards of $1.1 billion in new funding. That’s over a 3x increase as compared to last year.

But what is comparative effectiveness research? Simply, the branch evaluates the risks and benefits of not just a particular drug, medical device, or surgical procedure but also those of competing or alternative treatments to determine their impact on the patient. As a simple example: Does aspirin work better than ibuprofen? What about naproxen sodium? Surprisingly, until recently no U.S. government or business entity existed to answer the question. But in today’s climate of ever-increasing health care costs, the question suddenly bears great relevance.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

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