NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Basing Medical Research Funding on Mortality

April 22, 2002

Some analysts see the existing system for channeling federal medical research monies to particular diseases as unfair. They cite as an example the fact that much more money goes to AIDS research than to heart disease -- which kills many times more Americans than AIDS.

They argue that funds should be allocated on the basis of mortality -- with the greatest share of funds going to research on diseases that take the highest toll.

  • In fiscal 2002, the National Institutes of Health allocated $2.5 billion for research into AIDS -- which killed 15,288 in 2000.
  • On the other hand, heart disease research got $1.9 billion -- even though heart disease claimed 709,894 victims in 2000.
  • Diabetes resulted in 68,662 deaths -- but received $771.7 million in funding.
  • Breast cancer took a toll of 42,290 -- but cost $627.7 million in research.

While AIDS reached its peak as a killer in 1995 -- taking 51,147 lives -- the numbers have been plummeting ever since then, and it is no longer even among the top 15 causes of death. Nevertheless, its research funding today is double the level it was in 1995.

Advocates for mortality-based funding argue AIDS is simply a politically correct disease, thus attractive to funders. They have set up a Web site ( to lobby for a system that ties federal research dollars to the number of deaths from a medical condition.

Source: Joyce Howard Price, "Mortality Risk Seen Best Basis for Funding," Washington Times, April 22, 2002.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues