National Health Research Forum 2005

Forum Highlights Risks, Rewards, Returns of Research

March 15, 2005

Industry leaders, heads of federal agencies, patientadvocates and other stakeholders in research gathered on March 15 at theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, forResearch!America's Annual Meeting of Members and National Forum, "Research: TheRisks, the Rewards and the Returns."

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Panelists were (l-r) Elias Zerhouni, MD; Wendy Chaite, Esq.; Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH; Joseph Feczko, MD; Hon. Deborah Wince-Smith; John M. Leonard, MD; and Ohio Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson

Ohio Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson opened the forum with a keynoteaddress about his plan to transform Ohio's struggling manufacturing-basedeconomy to a robust knowledge-based economy through the Third Frontierinitiative-a 10-year, $1.1 billion effort to promote research and developmentand to bring new technologies to the market.

"Since Sir Isaac Newton first got knocked in the head withan apple, science has been fraught with risks," Johnson said. "It is this riskthat often causes heartburn when the research community and the public sectorcome together. There is just something disconcerting about having the words‘risk' and ‘taxpayer dollars' in the same sentence."

Johnson, who is credited with jump-starting Ohio's economy,acknowledged that there will be some failures with publicly funded efforts. "Wein government are too afraid of failure, but we must take more risks in orderto succeed," he said.

Judy Woodruff, CNN prime anchor and Research!Americaboard member, served as moderator of the panel discussion portion of theprogram.

In addressing how advances in technology have shifted theglobal and U.S. economies to increase productivity, lower costs and compete fortalent, panelist Hon. Deborah Wince-Smith, president, Council onCompetitiveness, said that "our society has to optimize itself on innovation.It has to be our mantra."

The mantra of the forum, however, was that innovationdoesn't come without risk, and success isn't achieved without failure. "There'sno guarantee that when you go down a path there will be success at the end ofit," said Joseph Feczko, MD, president, Worldwide Development, Pfizer Inc, and chiefmedical officer, Pfizer. "There is no such thing as a risk-free drug."

John M. Leonard, MD, vice president, global pharmaceuticaldevelopment, Abbott Laboratories, said that people shouldn't have the falseexpectation that no risks are attached to a drug. "Risk-benefit analysis is anongoing process and patients have to report to us when they see problems. Therehas to be a sense of shared responsibility."

However, according to Wendy Chaite, Esq., president,Lymphatic Research Foundation, and Research!America board secretary, the systemof research has put patients on the sidelines when it comes to making decisionsabout their quality of care or access to prescription drugs. "Human health isabout people," she said. "Innovation must include the patient."

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni,MD, agreed that "we cannot advance research without the involvement of thepatient community."

Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, director, Centers for DiseaseControl, noted that as people's life expectancies increase, their satisfactionwith the quality of their health decreases. "This is a disconnect that signalswe need to engage people in their health policy decisions."

With the threat of anthrax contamination in the Pentagon'smailroom still a looming possibility that morning, Gerberding added that as theworld gets smaller Americans must think beyond domestic health and treatingdisease to preventing disease and protecting health.

Feczko admitted that while everyone knows preventing diseaseis cheaper than treating disease, the pharmaceutical industry has not been ableto carve out a role in disease prevention.

According to Zerhouni, however, prevention is difficult toinvest in because the bulk of knowledge about prevention is still unknown."More money goes into treating disease than preventing it, which reflects ourignorance about prevention," he said.

"How much of that ignorance is a result of the fact thatfunding prevention research has not been a priority?" asked Woodruff.

Following the forum, guests attended a luncheon where LesterCrawford, DVM, PhD, acting commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, expandedon the panel dialogue regarding funding challenges within federal research andscience agencies. He said, however, that he is confident "funding from thegovernment will come because support from the medical community is palpable."

Read the transcripts from the National Forum keynote presentationand panel session.