The disease olympics

The massive rise of patient advocacy in the US has led to an aggressive, if inadvertent, contest between disease-specific lobbyists. Advocacy groups say they're just trying to get taxpayer-backed research dollars distributed equitably according to public health need and they deny any outright competition with one another. But with research budgets shrinking, advocacy becomes a zero-sum game. Some scientists worry that pitting one disease against another threatens the leadership of government funding bodies—not to mention the basic research enterprise. Virginia Hughes reports.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Marshall, E. Science 276, 344–346 (1997).

  2. 2

    Best, R.K. Am. Sociol. Rev. 77, 780–803 (2012).

  3. 3

    Gillum, L.A. et al. PLoS ONE 6, e16837 (2011).

  4. 4

    Gross, C.P., Anderson, G.F. & Powe N.R. N. Engl. J. Med. 340, 1881–1887 (1999).

  5. 5

    Sampat, B.N. Buterbaugh, K. & Perl, M. Milbank Q. 91, 163–185 (2013).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hughes, V. The disease olympics. Nat Med 19, 257–260 (2013).

Download citation