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Do Firms Underinvest in Long-Term Research? Evidence from Cancer Clinical Trials

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  • Eric Budish
  • Benjamin N. Roin
  • Heidi Williams

Abstract

We investigate whether private research investments are distorted away from long-term projects. Our theoretical model highlights two potential sources of this distortion: short-termism and the fixed patent term. Our empirical context is cancer research, where clinical trials—and hence, project durations—are shorter for late-stage cancer treatments relative to early-stage treatments or cancer prevention. Using newly constructed data, we document several sources of evidence that together show private research investments are distorted away from long-term projects. The value of life-years at stake appears large. We analyze three potential policy responses: surrogate (non-mortality) clinical-trial endpoints, targeted R&D subsidies, and patent design. (JEL D92, G31, I11, L65, O31, O34)

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Budish & Benjamin N. Roin & Heidi Williams, 2015. "Do Firms Underinvest in Long-Term Research? Evidence from Cancer Clinical Trials," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(7), pages 2044-2085, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:7:p:2044-85
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20131176
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • L65 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology; Plastics
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital

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