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NIH Could See a $6 Billion Funding Cut With New White House Budget

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
The White House budget “blueprint” for 2018, which was released today, has recommended substantial cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The White House budget “blueprint” for 2018, which was released today, has recommended substantial cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the budget would reduce NIH funding by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion, which is a 20% decrease from the $31 billion that the institution received in 2016.

The budget has reduced funding for HHS by $15.1 billion, about an 18% decrease from the 2017 allocation, and includes funds for implementing the 21st Century Cures Act, which received bipartisan support and was passed late in 2016. The Cures Act, in fact, had added $4.8 billion in funding over a decade to the NIH.

Continued funding has also been guaranteed for community health centers and safety-net providers, who provide care to low-income and vulnerable populations of society. The budget has also allocated funds to prevent wastage and abuse within the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. Furthermore, the budget lends substantial support to opioid misuse prevention efforts with a $500 million increase above the 2016 funding levels.

  

The biggest losers, however, are the pharmaceutical industry and NIH. The FDA medical product user fees have been raised by $1 billion over the 2017 annual levels and is set at more than $2 billion in 2018. This includes ways to support the much-promised increased regulatory efficiency and speed for product approval. This substantial increase in fees is to ensure that “industries that benefit from FDA’s approval can and should pay for their share,” per the blueprint.

The NIH budget cut includes reorganization of research priorities and includes eliminating the Fogarty International Center and consolidating the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within NIH. The CDC, meanwhile, will be provided a $500 million block grant to increase state flexibility and focus to cope with state-specific public health challenges.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has strongly opposed the budget cuts to the NIH and has urged Congress to reject the proposed cuts and increase federal support for the NIH and the National Cancer Institute.

“Reducing the NIH budget will devastate our nation’s already fragile federal research infrastructure and undercut a longstanding commitment to biomedical science that has fueled advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment,” per a statement released by ASCO’s president, Daniel F. Haye’s, MD, FACP, FASCO.

The American Society for Hematology (ASH) had, in fact, called for a $3 billion increase in NIH funding for 2017. In a statement, released in reaction to the blueprint, ASH has encouraged lawmakers to finalize an appropriations bill to allow for the increase.

“Through its support of NIH, it is also critically important that Congress continue its commitment to the National Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine initiatives, which set aside vital funding to accelerate research progress,” the statement said.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has also opposed the cuts to NIH’s budget; it’s public affairs director, Benjamin Corb, told Science that this is “unacceptable to the scientific community and should be unacceptable to the American public as well.”

 
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