By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Investment in heart disease research pays dividends in improved health and reduced health costs, but current levels of funding are not keeping up with patient needs, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement published Monday.

“We invest a mere 2.5 cents per day per U.S. citizen for research to attack the No. 1 killer of men and women alike,” the statement authors wrote.

“For the last decade, biological research has been under siege owing to tightening budgets at the taxpayer-funded National Institutes of Health and private funders,” said Joseph A. Hill, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the statement’s writing committee, in a news release.

The U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health is the largest funder of cardiovascular research, but today’s levels fund about 25 percent less than they did 13 years ago, due to changes in the purchasing power of research dollars.

Meanwhile, there is an increasing number of Americans dealing with heart failure and other forms of heart disease.

By 2030, more than 40 percent of people in the U.S. are projected to have heart failure or heart disease, with the cost of treatments and loss of productivity expected to exceed $1 trillion, according to the statement published in Circulation Research.

Heart failure is on the rise because many people who would have died from a heart attack or other form of heart disease are surviving, but with damage to the heart. Heart failure is a progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to maintain its workload.

Discoveries that result from biomedical research lead to new insights into the underpinnings of disease, which in turn leads to new drug targets and the development of better drugs and improved diagnostic strategies

“Many people question the value of scientific research funded with taxpayer dollars, yet this research is essential to both our nation’s health and to our economy,” said Hill in a news release. He also is the James T. Willerson, M.D., distinguished chair in cardiovascular diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the editor-in-chief of the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

A prime example of successful return on federally funded research, Hill said, is the Women’s Health Initiative. The NIH-funded trial has reduced the number of cases of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease by 200,000 since 2003, according to the statement. It cost $260 million, but saved an estimated $37 billion in healthcare and lost productivity costs, authors wrote.

Cardiovascular research has led to economic growth by helping people live healthy, active lives, which can increase workforce productivity, lead to more jobs, products and exports, and result in increased tax revenues, according to statement authors.

“We face unprecedented opportunities and evolving challenges in the fight against cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer on earth,” according to statement authors. There’s a price to pay in not investing in cardiovascular research: new discoveries, new therapies, and having enough medical professionals are all in jeopardy, they wrote.