House Bill Would Boost Funds for NIH by $1.1B; Cuts for CDC

Marcia Frellick

July 13, 2017

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would get a $1.1 billion increase in fiscal 2018 under a new House subcommittee bill, in striking contrast to the 22% decrease of $7.5 billion proposed by the Trump administration.

The increase to the NIH would be largely offset by cuts to family planning and refugee services. The overall House Appropriations' Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee bill includes $156 billion in total funding, down $5 billion from fiscal 2017's final funding levels.

In good news for researchers, the bill would also block a proposal by the Trump administration to drastically cut the payments that NIH gives universities to cover the overhead costs of research. Universities negotiate indirect costs with the US Department of Health and Human Services when they get grants. Researchers argue that current allocations already don't cover all the costs of research.

The bill, released Wednesday, proposes a decrease of $198 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which brings funding to $7 billion this year, but represents a far smaller decrease than the $1.3 billion cut proposed by President Trump, which would have resulted in a 17% cut.

On Twitter, Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, former CDC director, criticized the proposed cut, writing, "We need to [invest] in both cures for tomorrow & prevention for today."

Congress' largest spending bill also includes a $400 million increase for Alzheimer's research, $336 million (up $76 million) for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, and $400 million (up $80 million) for the All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative).

In praising the increase in funding, Alzheimer's Association President and CEO Harry Johns said in a statement, "Alzheimer's is the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Only medical breakthroughs will change that."

The 21st Century Cures Act would get $496 million, most of it ($300 million) going to the Cancer Moonshot, led by former Vice President Joe Biden.

In line with the president's blueprint, the House bill cuts the Office of the National Coordinator's (ONC's) budget by 35% to $38.4 million.

The bill ignores the Trump administration's plan to eliminate Fogarty International Center, which was created in 1968 to support and sustain research and training globally, and preserves its $73 million funding.

Under the bill, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration would be funded at $3.5 billion, which is $306 million below last year's level but $68 million above Trump's request. Communities that have had spikes in HIV infection and hepatitis could get federal funds for substance abuse counseling and treatment referrals, but federal funds would continue to be banned for buying syringes or sterile needles.

Use of federal dollars to advocate for gun research also continues to be banned.

Funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would be cut by $24 million to put it at $300 million, but the bill leaves it as a standalone agency. The White House proposed dissolving it and putting its work under the NIH.

Mark-up on the bill is scheduled for this afternoon. The full House Appropriations Committee may take up bill as early as next week, and Senate action will follow.

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