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Federal Funding for Arthritis, Rheumatic Disease Research

Funders of rheumatic disease research meet for first time, discuss collaboration

June 25, 2015

SAN DIEGO – Federal funding given to researchers who study arthritis and other rheumatic diseases has dropped significantly over the past five years, according to a report from the Rheumatology Research Foundation (the Foundation). As federal funding has dropped, private organizations are working to fill the gap. Today, leaders from more than a dozen organizations and federal institutes will meet to discuss ways to collaborate and expand their roles in supporting research into arthritis and rheumatic disease.

Research into better understanding and treating debilitating rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma and gout, is a serious concern for millions of people across the country. More than 52 million adults in the U.S. have arthritis, and, in all, arthritis and rheumatic diseases are the number one cause of disability in the country, according to the CDC. The best way to prevent disabilities caused by arthritis and rheumatic diseases is to increase patient access to rheumatology specialists and develop better treatments through high-quality research.

In Analysis of Funding for Rheumatology Research and Training for the Period 2010-2014,  the Foundation collected data on research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and 12 private foundations with interests in rheumatology from fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2014. The Foundation then determined how much of that funding went to rheumatology professionals. According to the report, funding given to rheumatology researchers fell from more than $1.1 billion ($1,161,725,604) in 2010* to less than $700 million ($686,235,085) in 2014, amounting to a 40 percent drop in federal funding.

A chart representing the fall in federal funding for rheumatoid arthritis research.

With federal support for rheumatology research decreasing, the burden of filling the widening gap falls in part on private organizations. From 2010 through 2014, private foundations infused more $95.3 million ($95,327,238) into arthritis and rheumatic disease research, which is equals about 20 percent of the overall drop in federal funding. David Karp, MD, PhD, president of the Foundation says, “While funding from private foundations doesn’t completely offset the loss in federal support, we are excited to see that our combined efforts are making a big difference in ensuring scientific discovery within the field continues.”

At the same time the Foundation unveils a first look at its report on funding for arthritis and rheumatic disease research, leaders from a variety of groups with strong interests in the topic are gathering in San Diego. The first-ever Partners in Rheumatology: Leadership Summit is bringing together representatives from 16 private organizations and federal institutes. They are meeting to discuss ways to collaborate in their efforts to fill the growing gap in federal funding and encourage lawmakers to support rheumatology research through the NIH. (See a full list of participating organizations below.)

“By bringing together these different organizations, we hope to encourage participants to connect with each other, share resources and practices that are helpful, and build a more effective support system for the rheumatology community,” says Mary Wheatley, IOM, CAE, executive director of the Foundation. “We believe this is a major step in cultivating an environment where rheumatology research and training can thrive, providing better treatment options and more specialists for people with rheumatic diseases.”


Organizations Participating in the Partners in Rheumatology: Leadership Summit

  • Alliance for Lupus Research
  • American College of Rheumatology (ACR)
  • Arthritis Foundation
  • Arthritis National Research Association
  • Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP)
  • Foundation for Physical Therapy
  • Health Research Alliance
  • Lupus Foundation of America
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
  • National Psoriasis Foundation
  • Osteoarthritis Research Society International
  • Rheumatology Research Foundation
  • Scleroderma Foundation
  • Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation
  • Vasculitis Foundation

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