Today, October 5th, three Americans were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. This continues the strong showing of US medical research, with US researchers counting for eighteen of the last thirty winners. US institutions where the research was conducted accounted for 19 of the 30 last prizes. If this was a sporting contest, commentators would be talking about an "American legacy of dominance" in the field. Instead of talking about the tremendous success the US has had, all we hear from our politicians and left wing talking heads is how the medical system is broken.
The media talks about the technical details of what the scientists discovered, but I haven't seen anyone analyze why the US has so many winners. The Europeans have certainly looked at the reasons why the US has excelled and concluded that more research happens in the US and that the research is of a higher quality, and that private/public partnerships can work.
The top 10 U.S. hospitals that conduct clinical trials carry out more trials than all the hospitals in the rest of the world - combined. The US Government spends double what the original EU does on medical research. When you add in private sector research which spends almost 140% of what the US government does - the margins become wider.
Nothing in the European research answers the most basic of questions - why does the US spend so much? Does the US just spend more on Research and Development (R&D) in general? The answer is no. As a percentage of GDP the US Research and Development ranks just eighth.
So why does the US spend so much on medical research?
The answer is simple; the profits made on a successful trial make it possible to both pay for the research of failed drugs and procedures, while still allowing the company to make money. Research into new medicine is a high risk game, with a failure rate as high as 92%. That means the profits have to be high to cover the huge costs involved in R&D. No other country has a working structure that has as much potential for medical research as the US. If it weren't for the current US medical system, the world would be without hundreds of drugs, new medical procedures, and technology. The astounding success of US medical research should be seen as an indicator of a healthy market that, despite all of its faults, is working. The US marketplace of insurers and patients willing to pay for procedures and drugs have helped fund research into medicine, and that research is turning out new drugs, and new medical procedures and these new medicines and procedures are helping us live longer lives.
If the liberals get their way and the US is reduced from a competitive market place to a single payer system then one can expect to see the symptoms of a broken marketplace - rationing, shortages and inefficiency. The other symptom of a broken marketplace you should expect is fewer US Nobel Laureates in the field of Medicine.