The impact of biomedical innovation on longevity and health

Frank R Lichtenberg

Abstract


Many authors have expressed the view that a substantial portion of recent gains in longevity and health is due to biomedical research and innovation. This article describes the methodologies and findings of a number of studies based on observational data that have sought to measure the impact of biomedical innovation on the longevity and health of Americans and other populations during recent decades.

Most of these studies have examined the impact of innovation in pharmaceuticals, the most research-intensive medical good or service. Two measures of medical innovation that have been used are the mean vintage of the medical goods or procedures used by an individual or population, and the number of distinct products (e.g. drugs) available for treating a condition. Longevity (e.g. time till death) is the health outcome that has been analyzed the most, but several studies have studied the impact of medical (i.e. pharmaceutical) innovation on the ability of people to work or engage in activities of daily living.

Some studies have been based on cross-sectional patient-level data. Others have been based on longitudinal, region-level data; they have investigated whether regions (e.g. states) undergoing more rapid medical innovation have exhibited larger improvements in health. And some studies have been based on longitudinal, disease-level data; they have investigated whether the medical conditions undergoing more rapid innovation have exhibited larger gains in health outcomes. Innovation related to some specific major diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease and cancer) has been investigated, but the overall impact of innovation related to other major diseases (e.g. diabetes) has not.

These studies provide considerable support for the hypothesis that a substantial portion of recent gains in longevity and health is due to biomedical research and innovation. It would be desirable to apply these methods to data from developing countries.


Keywords


longevity, health, biomedical, research, innovation, pharmaceutical

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5617/njhe.1290

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