Trump budget a devastating setback to medical research, groups say

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Reaction was swift to President Donald Trump's budget proposal to cut health funding. (Gage Skidmore - www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/5440002785)

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to scientific and medical research will be a devastating setback, according to numerous medical and health organizations.

Reaction to Trump’s proposal to cut the Department of Health and Human Services budget by more than $15 billion in 2018—including a huge $6 billion cut to the country’s foremost medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—was swift and clear.

The proposed cuts, if approved by Congress, would set back research on diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s, slow medical innovation, and cost the country jobs, critics said Thursday.

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Groups around the country urged Congress to ignore Trump’s budget blueprint and maintain health funding.

“The unprecedented budget cuts proposed by President Trump for fiscal year 2018 would cripple the nation’s ability to support and deliver the important biomedical research that provides hope to all, including the millions of Americans affected by life-threatening and chronic diseases,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, in an announcement.

"We have great concerns regarding public health—think about Zika, Ebola—and certainly the cuts to research and public health in general," Andrew Gurman, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, told NBC News.

The cuts would set back cancer research nearly two decades, said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We are at the cusp of tremendous breakthroughs in cancer research, making it exactly the wrong moment to turn back the clock on progress against a disease that continues to kill more than 1,650 people a day in this country,” he said in an announcement.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology said the budget would "devastate” the country’s federal research infrastructure. “Gutting the U.S. research infrastructure won’t make America First, but will decidedly place the United States behind other countries in scientific advances,” said the group’s president, Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., in a statement.

Other organizations that advocate for patients agreed. "The cuts proposed in this 'skinny budget' will starve our nation's biomedical research and public health infrastructure,” said Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association.

American Heart Association President Steven Houser said he was alarmed by the proposed cuts. The cut to the NIH would be detrimental to the fight against heart disease and stroke, the world’s top two killers, he said.

It is unclear, however, how Congress will react to the budget proposal, given its overwhelmingly bipartisan support last year for the 21st Century Cures Act, which boosted NIH funding. “We believe that this cut is dead on arrival on Capitol Hill,” Spencer Perlman, an analyst at Veda Partners, told Bloomberg.