The numbers are astounding: $57 trillion, $31 trillion. The first figure represents the estimated dollar value of the increases in life expectancy of Americans during the 1970s and 1980s. The second represents the estimated dollar value of advances made just in prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. These and other assessments appear in a new report, "Exceptional Returns: The Economic Value of America's Investment in Medical Research," released May 9 by Funding First, an initiative of the Mary Woodard Lasker Charitable Trust.

The report precedes a forthcoming book by nine prominent economists who have applied accepted techniques of modern economics to compare such values as extended life to traditionally measurable components of the U.S. gross domestic product. The book will be a collection of six research papers by the economists, in which they reached a consensus, working independently of each other, that sustained investment in medical research will be needed...

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