Impacting Real Life

Biomedical partnerships and initiatives mean little if they don’t pay off in terms of human health – healing people, relieving pain and symptoms, or preventing disease. In recent years, NIH has focused on translational research – taking research in the laboratory and making sure it benefits patients as quickly as possible.

But it’s not as linear as taking work that has been done in the laboratory and simply applying it to people. Oftentimes, we can take both steps simultaneously.

Jeff Bazarian

Jeffery Bazarian, M.D., working on ways to better detect and treat concussions

In one project, neurologists are working in the laboratory with Isis Pharmaceuticals to develop new compounds to treat muscular dystrophy – while, down the hallway, their colleagues are working with patients to develop new ways to measure their health. The idea is to have new measures in hand so that when an experimental compound is ready to test in people, physicians will have all the tools they need to conduct a study in patients immediately. A similar effort is under way by our physicians studying new ways to detect and treat concussions; they are closely monitoring patients to develop precise indicators of concussion at the same time they are working in the laboratory to identify a biomarker that indicates serious head injury.

The past year is replete with projects aimed at improving health while ensuring that health care dollars are used as wisely and efficiently as possible – a central tenet of health care reform.

  • A team led by Helena Temkin-Greener, Ph.D., found that on average, individuals in New York nursing homes who are enrolled in Medicaid are 27 percent more likely to be sent to the hospital than individuals with private insurance – decisions that often result in higher costs of care and poor health outcomes. Understanding the reasons behind such decisions is crucial to ultimately lowering the cost of health care for these patients and providing them with the most appropriate level of care.
  • Health gains associated with a category of medications commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis, known as disease-modifying drugs, come at a very high cost when compared to therapies that address the symptoms of the disease, according to a study led by Katia Noyes, Ph.D. Her team found that while multiple sclerosis patients using such medications experience modest health gains, the cost associated with using the drugs is more than eight times higher than what is considered reasonable from a cost-effectiveness perspective.

A team led by Judith Baumhauer, M.D., has found that very often, patients with foot problems like bunions get as much benefit from inexpensive over-the-counter orthotics as they do from more expensive custom-made devices.