Medical and advocacy groups aren’t the only ones opposed to President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in 2018. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the nation needs to spend more money on healthcare research, not less.
During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, the chairman, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), said (PDF) in a prepared statement that he was proud Congress increased the agency’s funding by $2 billion in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill, but “especially disappointed” to see Trump’s proposed budget cuts for next year.
“I am concerned that the reductions in the request would stall the progress that our recent investments were intended to achieve and potentially discourage promising scientists from entering or remaining in biomedical research,” he said in a written statement.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D–N.Y., said Trump’s budget proposal would “decimate biomedical research and the economy,” Science reported.
The NIH helps fund research to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said in a prepared statement (PDF) that the future has never been brighter for advances in biomedical research.
But MedPage Today reports that not all lawmakers support the funding. Subcommittee member Andy Harris, R-Md., said the NIH spends $6.5 billion annually of its grant money on "indirect costs" of research. "You're not paying for researchers, you're not paying for what you need to conduct your experiment—they're overhead costs."
Collins said indirect costs are set by Office of Management and Budget guidelines, which NIH does not play a role in, according to the MedPage article. "This might be a really good moment to revisit a lot of the regulations that we have asked them to put forward—things like effort reporting, which take a lot of time and don't accomplish very much," he said.