Wednesday, June 10, 2015

costs of slipshod research in the $billions...,


npr |  Laboratory research seeking new medical treatments and cures is fraught with pitfalls: Researchers can inadvertently use bad ingredients, design the experiment poorly, or conduct inadequate data analysis. Scientists working on ways to reduce these sorts of problems have put a staggering price tag on research that isn't easy to reproduce: $28 billion a year.

That figure, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology, represents about half of all the preclinical medical research that's conducted in labs (in contrast to research on human volunteers). And the finding comes with some important caveats.

The $28 billion doesn't just represent out-and-out waste, the team that did the research cautions. It also includes some studies that produced valid results — but that couldn't be repeated by others because of the confusing way the methods were described, or because of other shortcomings.

Leonard Freedman, who heads a nonprofit called the Global Biological Standards Institute, decided to undertake the study with two Boston University economists, Iain Cockburn and Timothy Simcoe. Their goal was to identify ways to make research more efficient.

"We initially were asking a very simple question," Freeman says. "We simply wanted to know how much money is being spent each year on basic preclinical research that is not reproducible."
That turned out to be a very difficult question; only a few studies have addressed the issue head-on, and they aren't directly comparable. The economists eventually homed in on a best estimate: $28 billion per year.