Concerns about funding of clinical research underlie all other problems identified at the Council on Scientific Affairs conference. Future National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets are likely to be constant at best, and the general public expects cost containment to be an ongoing goal; this is exacerbated by the impending Medicare Trust Fund crisis. Meanwhile, traditional financial support of clinical research in academic medical centers (AMCs) through cross-subsidization is imperiled by competitive pressures largely caused by managed care. Although managed care organizations (MCOs) are potentially rich sources of funding and other resources, and some not-for-profit companies are conducting some research, for-profit MCOs have not demonstrated an understanding of the importance of clinical research. Young physicians are being discouraged from careers as clinical researchers and established investigators are 'dropping out' because of demands for clinical productivity and competition for research grants, loss of patients/research subjects to managed care, perceived lack of status and compensation, and overall uncertainty about continued financial support. Efforts to assist current and potential clinical investigators are discussed in this report. Loss of patients, denial of reimbursement, and competition with MCOs and contract research organizations (CROs) have placed AMCs under unprecedented pressure. However, research centers located in AMCs have allowed investigators to conduct clinical research by providing a 'protected environment'. Furthermore, many AMCs are determined to continue conducting clinical research and are addressing related problems. Although the NIH will continue to be a major source of funding for clinical research, partnerships between various private and public entities provide important opportunities to maximize the productivity of all individuals and institutions involved. Potential partnerships include MCOs, AMCs, CROs, pharmaceutical companies and other industry, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Health Administration, practice-based physicians, and private foundations and patient support groups. 'Partnerships in advocacy' for clinical research will be essential. Efforts to recruit for-profit MCOs to the clinical research endeavor identified in this report include (1) emphasizing issues of interest to them (eg, outcomes research); (2) stressing the significance of some research to the marketplace; (3) developing criteria to distinguish individual MCOs on the basis of their contribution to the public interest; (4) equating money spent on research with 'RandD dollars' spent in nonmedical business enterprises; and (5) educating purchasers of health care (eg, corporate health plan directors) about clinical research. Conducting clinical research in all managed care settings requires leadership, the understanding and cooperation of physicians and support staff, wise use of limited resources (ie, funding only the best research projects), sound methodology, and above all, the perception that the research will ultimately improve patient care.
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