publication date: Jul. 8, 2016

Capitol Hill

House Appropriators Propose $1.25 Billion Budget Increase for NIH in FY 2017


By Matthew Bin Han Ong

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS marked up a bipartisan spending bill July 6 that gives NIH a $1.25 billion increase in the 2017 fiscal year.

NCI is to receive a $264 million increase over FY 2016.

The measure boosts the NIH budget to $33.3 billion and now moves to consideration by the full House appropriations committee.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations June 9 marked up a spending bill, which would provide a $2 billion funding increase for NIH and $216 million increase for NCI in FY 2017 (The Cancer Letter, June 10).

The White House proposed a $33.1 billion appropriation for NIH in 2017. An $825 million infusion included $680 million for Biden’s moonshot and $100 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, and $45 million in new money for the BRAIN Initiative.

For the 2016 fiscal year, NIH received a $2 billion raise for a total of $31.3 billion, and NCI’s budget was increased from $4.95 billion to $5.2 billion (The Cancer Letter, Feb. 12).

“This bill achieves its goal of reducing discretionary spending by more than half a billion dollars, all the while prioritizing where funding is needed the most,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, said in a statement. “Several important programs through the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health that benefit many Americans receive a substantial increase in funding, often well beyond the amount [President Barack Obama] requested in his budget.”

For NIH, the House subcommittee bill includes:

• $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million;

• $1.26 billion for the Alzheimer’s disease research initiative, a $350 million increase;

• $195 million, for the BRAIN Initiative, a $45 million increase;

• $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller “Kids First” initiative, for pediatric cancer research;

• $165 million for the National Children’s Study;

• $511.5 million for Clinical and Translational Science Awards, and

• $333.3 million for Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) programs.

The legislation includes a total of $7.8 billion for the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention—$605 million above the enacted FY 2016 level. This includes $6.9 billion in appropriated funds, as well as $908 million in transfers from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The bill also provides $390 million in research funds for the Zika virus.

The measure provides $3 billion for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services program management and operations, which is $576 million below the FY 2016 enacted level, and $1 billion below Obama’s budget request.

The bill continues the longstanding prohibition against using federal funds for gun control research, and contains several provisions to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act—including rescinding prior-year mandatory funds and prohibiting the use of any new discretionary funding to implement the ACA.

The boost in funding will help continue advances in big data, precision medicine, and clinical trials and translational research, said Daniel Hayes, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“ASCO is encouraged by comments from Rep. Cole who referred to the increase in NIH funding ‘as a floor, not as a ceiling, for biomedical-research funding,’” Hayes said in a statement. “As Congress works through its appropriations process, we’ll continue to advocate for funding levels more closely aligned to the $2 billion included in the Senate version of the bill.

“Federal funding for medical research has remained flat for most of the past decade, and while the boost in funds in 2016 was a critical step forward, more is needed to reverse the trend and regain ground in the fight against cancer.”

The medical research advocacy community needs to “work extremely hard” to ensure the FY 2017 appropriations reflect the support for NIH in both chambers of Congress, said Jon Retzlaff, managing director of the Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs at the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Of course, while it’s very clear that Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution in September to fund the federal government at least through the November elections, we are increasingly optimistic that when the final decisions on the FY 2017 appropriations process are made, NIH will receive its second major annual funding boost in a row after twelve years of stagnant funding,” Retzlaff said to The Cancer Letter.

The proposed increase for the NIH is impressive, said AACR President Nancy Davidson.

“Chairman Cole is one of the key reasons that the NIH received its biggest boost in funding in 12 years in last year’s appropriations bill, and we are deeply grateful to him for his ongoing commitment to providing robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for medical research,” Davidson, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Chairman Cole, his staff, and his colleagues throughout 2016 to help secure an increase for FY 2017 that builds upon the positive foundation that began in FY 2016.”

Budget cuts are “ill advised” at a time when health care delivery research is critical to improving health care and patient safety, said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

“We are heartened that for the first time in four years funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was not eliminated,” Woolley said in a statement. “These cuts are moving our nation in the wrong direction. Research supported by AHRQ is addressing waste and inefficiencies in the health care system, medical errors and rising health care costs. Increased funding for the CDC to combat Zika virus and find solutions to prescription drug abuse is a positive development.

“The sooner resources are deployed to address these health threats, the better. But we are concerned that the spending bill continues to prohibit gun prevention research supported by the CDC.”

NIH needs steady budget increases to keep up with biomedical inflation and public health and research needs, said David Pugach, president of United for Medical Research.

“It is essential that Congress continue the momentum begun last year to put the NIH back on a growth path after more than a decade of flat funding,” Pugach said in a statement. “NIH research is an engine for innovation, a pathway to hope for patients and an economic catalyst, supporting $60 billion annually in economic activity.

“UMR will work with the House and the Senate to ensure maximum funding for NIH for FY17.”


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