Ups and downs for health research Essay

The administration’s fiscal year 1986 budget proposescontinued health for some biomedical research activities and amputation for others. While promising the maintenance of “a strong nationalhealth research capability,” the budget calls for a $290 millioncut in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) budget, a net gainof $4 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a $16million drop for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which includesan $8 million loss for occupational safety and health. The NIH budget proposal presumes that a novel bit of bookkeeping the administration has planned will be allowed to stand–allocatingapproved FY 1985 dollars for expenditure in 1986 and 1987 by fundingsome grants for three years. Pushing “hard” moneyappropriated in one year into the future is apparently a funding first.Says one staffer on the Senate Health and Human Services subcommittee,”If it isn’t illegal it’s on the cusp of beingillegal.” Rep.

Henry A. Waxman (D.-Calif.) has introduced a Houseresolution that directs NIH to use its FY ’85 money as initiallyintended. The total proposed reduction in NIH’s budget is from a $5.

14billion obligation to $4.85 billion; research activities would drop from$2.79 billion to $2.61 billion. Research trainees would be spared theax, their numbers holding steady at 9,900. Usually a new one-year grant carries the promise of funding for thenext two years anyway, so a three-year commitment wouldn’t changemuch for the recipients. Congress okayed 6,500 first-year grants for FY’85, a jump from the level of around 5,000 that has been maintainedsinced 1980. NIH has thus far funded about 2,000 grants in FY ’85;the President hopes to move $203 million from the remaining pool (and$35 million from research centers) into 1986 and 1987, dropping thegrant number back down.

Reaction from the research community has been, not unexpectedly,negative. What Congress will do with the FY ’86 budget depends onwhether it lets stand the FY ’85 change. FDA’s $4 million gain from its $410 million ceiling in 1985won’t cost the taxpayers if plans to initiate users’ fees gothrough. Under the President’s plan pharmaceutical companies willhave to pay to apply for new drug approvals.

CDC’s budget alsocalls for users’ fees, with the anticipated generation of $1million collected for laboratory certification. AIDS research fares well in the proposed budget, with plans for an$86 million expenditure in 1986.

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