Basic Instincts

  • by: |
  • 11/22/2013

Mom, Apple Pie, and NIH Funding

Is NIH funding really the be-all/end-all of healthcare innovation?

Mari Serebrov, Washington Editor of BioWorld writes, “With the sequestration blade set to indiscriminately shave federal programs again in January, a bipartisan group of senators is urging congressional budget negotiators to spare research dollars at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

But is NIH really the only game in town.

Such a singular focus on the basic research funded by NIH ignores the fact that other government agencies are doing important health care research, Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told BioWorld Today. That research also is getting nicked by the sequester razor.”

For instance, the FDA funds research into regulatory science and personalized medicine, despite a “very limited budget,” Pitts said. While regulatory science research may not seem as sexy as basic research into cancer cures, it’s necessary research, he added.

“Basic research is important,” Pitts said, “but it’s not the beginning, middle and end” of all health care research.

The concerns also ignore new government funding for other types of research. Pitts described the current U.S. funding of public health-related research as “a bigger pie with more people with knives and forks.” More research is taking place, but the NIH slice of the pie isn’t getting any larger.

A prime example of that growth was the creation of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) in 2010. Set up as a nonprofit under the Affordable Care Act, PCORI was charged with funding comparative-effectiveness research. While Congress began shaving NIH funding close to the jaw line, it mandated that $10 million be set aside in fiscal 2010 to fund PCORI’s activities, $50 million in fiscal 2011 and $150 million in fiscal 2012.

To date, PCORI, which is funded through transfers from two Medicare trust funds rather than general tax dollars like the NIH, has approved 197 research awards totaling more than $273.5 million. It also is committing more than $1 billion to research funding over the next two fiscal years. But that money will be used to “study other people’s research, rather than the basic research NIH promotes,” Pitts said.

Noting that all research is subjective, Pitts said it isn’t Congress’ job to approve individual research projects, but Congress makes the choices of how federal research dollars are spent in general.

The complete BioWorld article can be found here.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog