Unlike the pharmaceutical industry, no empirical research has focused on the factors influencing research and development (R&D) spending in the medical device industry. To fill that gap, this study examines how R&D spending is influenced by prior year cash flow and corporate market value using multiple regression analysis and a panel data set of medical device companies over the period 1962–2008. The empirical findings suggest that the elasticities of R&D spending with respect to cash flow and corporate market value equal 0.58 and 0.31, respectively. Moreover, based upon these estimates, simulations show that the recently enacted excise tax on medical devices, taken alone, will reduce R&D spending by approximately $4 billion and thereby lead to a minimum loss of $20 billion worth of human life years over the first 10 years of its enactment. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.