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House Discusses NIH Funding

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, chaired by Tom Cole (R-OK), held a hearing on October 24, 2017 to discuss the recently proposed budget costs regarding NIH funding. The current proposal is to cap NIH Indirect Cost Reimbursement at 10% of total research costs in FY 2018, a large reduction from the 28% spent by NIH in FY 2017. Not only would this proposal adversely affect researchers and doctors in all arenas, but the proposal would also inspire the trend to keep diminishing NIH research appropriations from Congress. Decreased funding for NIH research has been a major burden for the orthopedic community over the last several years, and AAOS is working with Congress and the orthopedic community to put money back in the hands of researchers, all with the goal of improving the quality of life for Americans suffering from unfortunate musculoskeletal conditions.

Chairman Cole, ranking member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) all gave their reasons for their rejection of the proposal during their opening remarks of the hearing before hearing the testimonies from the witnesses. The chairman and both ranking members were all in agreement that these cuts to the NIH would play a negative role in the biomedical environment of this country, due to the amount of lives that would be affected by less research and the effects of these cuts to Americas biomedical economy, all at the peril of some of the country’s top Universities. Ranking member Rosa DeLauro even discussed the bi-partisan Accelerating Biomedical Research Act which would reverse the funding cuts, and untie the hands of the committee and allow them to go above the caps.

The biggest concern expressed by all the key witnesses and the subcommittee was the fact that these cuts to the NIH would limit research and inadvertently affect the ability doctors have to save lives. Dr. Gray Gilliand, President and Director of the highly esteemed Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was adamant in expressing that NIH funding drives research and innovation across the country, and he thinks that the returns on the investments from the NIH at places like the Fred Hutchinson Center are substantial, not only in terms of dollars, but also lives saved. Although this research is extremely important for institutions such as the Fred Hutchison Center, the orthopedic community also would be affected by these budget cuts. AAOS is not only seeking to reject this proposal, but also looking to increase NIH funding from Congress to benefit the orthopedic community as a whole in FY 2018.

AAOS has proposed that congress appropriate a total of $34.1 billion in FY 2018, which would be a $2 billion increase from FY 2017, in addition the funds outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act. With this increased budget, AAOS aims to help the just over 1 in 4 Americans that suffer from joint health problems. The development of these treatments will require increased investments in both basic science and clinical research.

Previous increases in NIH funding levels have boosted biomedical research, which in turn yields great economic benefits and improvements in health for United States citizens. The economic benefits and improved quality of life Americans are able to take advantage of due to NIH research was made abundantly clear by Chairman Cole, who said “This relationship between the federal government and these private research institutions partnering in a cost sharing relationship has led to discoveries that have not only improved the quality of life for people around the world, but also has made the US the leader in biomedical innovation and economic competiveness.”