Neurosurgery Research Funding from Industry Will Play Critical Role

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Industry Will Play Critical Role in Funding Neurosurgery Research

Illustration of the brain

MAYWOOD, IL – With federal funding increasingly restricted, industry will play a critical role in funding neurosurgery research, according to a commentary by three prominent neurosurgeons in the journal World Neurosurgery.

"It is likely that the role of industry in research funding in neurosurgery will continue to expand, whether by individual grants or by organizations such as the Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation," Loyola neurosurgeons Vikram Prabhu, MD, Russ Nockels, MD, and Douglas Anderson, MD, wrote. "We should nurture this relationship, regulating it carefully without stifling it."

Drs. Prabhu, Nockels and Anderson are professors in the Department of Neurological Surgery of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Dr. Anderson is department chair.

Industry has funded neurosurgery research for decades. "Through the years, it has brought advances to the medical field benefiting countless patients and the population at large," Drs. Prabhu, Nockels and Anderson wrote.

Industry funding also has resulted in periodic ethical lapses. ''But these are the exception rather than the rule and they are constantly being addressed and rectified – at a local and national level and with ever-increasing scrutiny," the authors wrote.

The National Institutes of Health is the world's leading underwriter of biomedical research, but obtaining NIH funding is an arduous process. A researcher must have an extensive track record, robust research facilities and a thriving program. Most grant applications are rejected, and most physicians do not have the time or training to master the art of grant writing.

Industry has superseded the NIH as the primary sponsor of clinical research. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 2006 and 2014, the number of industry-funded clinical trials increased by 43 percent, while the number of trials funded by the NIH decreased by 24 percent.

A July 2017 study in World Neurosurgery that examined industry funding of neurosurgery research found that full professors on average received more than four times as much funding as assistant professors. Vascular neurosurgeons on average received more money than other neurosurgery subspecialists. Seventy-seven percent of male neurosurgeons received industry funding, compared with 59 percent of female neurosurgeons. Among those who did receive funding, 23 percent of men received more than $10,000, compared with 11 percent of women.

Such funding disparities should be addressed, Drs. Prabhu, Nockels and Anderson wrote. "Academic rank and gender should not be factors, and other neurosurgical disciplines, such as oncology, critical care and neurotrauma, functional and peripheral nerve, deserve an equal share of the pie."

The authors conclude: "Logistical and financial support for research from private organizations or industry should be welcomed, if the source is properly vetted and the proposed work is within the scientific and ethical confines of neurosurgery. Careful oversight and appropriate disclosure to avoid conflicts of interest are mandatory and physicians have to maintain the highest ethical standards. Organizations, such as the Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation, play a key role; it may actually be best to steer precious research money through such entities."

The paper is titled, "Industry Funding for Neurosurgery Research."

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.