The federal government is spending a lot of money on kidney disease, but the bulk of it is going into treatments for kidney failure, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

Medicare spent $30.9 billion treating approximately 530,000 end-stage renal disease patients in 2013, more than the entire 2015 budget for the National Institutes of Health ($30 billion).

The NIH, the primary funding source for kidney research, spent $564 million on biomedical research on kidney disease in 2015.

The Congressional Kidney Caucus asked the GAO to examine how the federal government funds and prioritizes kidney disease research. The report describes the level of NIH funding for biomedical research on kidney disease and how the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases sets priorities for kidney disease research. The report also examines funding for other leading diseases and conditions.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Kidney failure was the ninth leading cause of death (48,146 deaths) in 2014, ranked below influenza and pneumonia (55,227 deaths) and above suicide (42,773 deaths).
  • Chronic kidney disease was the 6th most prevalent chronic condition, affecting 16.9% of U.S. adults over 18.
  • In 2015, NIH spent the most on cancer research ($5.389 billion), cardiovascular research, ($1.991 billion) and heart disease research ($1.262 billion).

“Kidney diseases are devastating the lives of millions of Americans,” said Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN, president of the American Society of Nephrology, in response to the report. “Innovation has not kept pace with the magnitude of the diseases and the current underinvestment in kidney research is detrimental to patients and taxpayers. Today’s GAO report highlights the extent of the gap between our investment in innovation to treat and cure kidney diseases and the outsized burden they place on every American.”

ASN announced at the White House Organ Summit last year its pledge of the first $7 million to launch a prize competition incentivizing the development of novel technologies for renal replacement therapy to improve quality of life for patients with kidney diseases. The society has also pledged to work with Congress to ensure the United States’ investment in research to cure kidney diseases is adequate to meet the challenge it poses to patients and taxpayers.

Read the full report here.