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.