Drastic Cuts to NIH Would Hamper Progress in Finding Cures

The National Institutes of Health is in the business of curing diseases. For more than a century, NIH scientists have improved American lives by making important discoveries that benefit public health.

That is why we remain extremely wary of any budget proposals that impose dramatic cuts to NIH. The administration recently requested budget cuts to NIH in fiscal year 2017 and FY 2018. The proposed cuts would slash NIH research and Institutional Development Award grants by more than $1.2 billion for the remainder of this year. And for next year, the proposed cuts would amount to $5.8 billion – roughly 20 percent of NIH’s budget.  

These cuts might make sense on a spreadsheet, but they don’t accurately reflect the critical and often unprecedented work this agency actually does.  

Medical research is about finding treatments and cures, but the funding behind this research also creates high-wage American jobs. In the short term, cutting funding for this type of basic research sends a signal to young American researchers — the best and brightest we have to offer — that finding cures is not a priority. It also indicates to American companies that they should take their high-tech businesses overseas where funding is more robust.   

There are longer-term negative effects as well. Take, for example, Alzheimer’s disease. Today, one out of five Medicare dollars is spent on care related to this irreversible, progressive brain disorder. Finding a cure for this tragic disease sooner rather than later won’t just save countless lives and prevent unspeakable heartbreak, it will also save American taxpayers dollars.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed into law our bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. This landmark legislation safely makes the approval process more efficient for life-saving drugs and devices, helping countless patients in need. We also infused the NIH with $4.8 billion in fully offset funding. These dollars will directly help advance research into the genetic, lifestyle, and environmental variations of disease, bolster research to find a cure for cancer, and invest in initiatives to help improve our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts throw many of these initiatives into turmoil.

Health care should be first and foremost about providing the highest quality of care for patients. This requires an environment that fosters greater innovation and more medical breakthroughs.

For these sorts of innovations to bear fruit, the NIH must be properly funded and receive the support it both needs and deserves. The search for cures must be a non-partisan, all-hands-on-deck effort. Tragic diseases don’t just affect Republicans, nor do they just affect Democrats. They touch all of our lives.

We sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget urging the administration to rethink these proposed cuts. Congress voted last year to reinvest in NIH research because we recognize its remarkable return on investment for the American people. NIH research saves lives, creates jobs, controls long-term entitlement costs, protects our national security, and advances our global leadership, all while bringing renewed hope to patients and families across the country.

We will continue to advocate for NIH funding with our colleagues here in Congress and would respectfully urge the Trump administration to rethink what gets left on the cutting room floor.  


Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) are members of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

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