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Why Medical Research is at Risk

Since the completion of the unprecedented doubling by Congress of the NIH budget in 2003, appropriations for the NIH have remained essentially flat. When one factors in the rate of biomedical inflation, the agency has effectively lost approximately $6 billion, or 20 percent, in purchasing power and therefore its ability to fund life-saving research.
And as a result of Congress and the White House’s inability to reach agreement on a balanced alternative to deficit reduction, President Barack Obama recently signed an order authorizing the government to begin cutting $85 billion from federal agencies, officially enacting across-the-board reductions known as sequestration. 

Sequestration, originally slated to go into effect Jan. 2, was delayed two months with the hope that the new Congress might reach a more balanced and comprehensive budget agreement.   With the enactment of the sequester, the NIH budget has been slashed by 5.1% or approximately $1.5 billion. This means now that NIH is funded at $29.1 billion and the NCI at $4.8 billion.  NIH director Francis Collins, MD, said recently that the agency will try to “prioritize things that seem most promising, most critical to public health, but there’s no question there will be across-the-board damage to virtually everything.”

These cuts are particularly disconcerting to the research community because it comes at a time when scientific opportunity has never been greater, and administering a reduction of this scale in such a short timeframe will be devastating to the biomedical science enterprise.  It will require arbitrary funding cuts that will prevent critical research projects from reaching completion and will ensure that other potentially lifesaving research will not even get off the ground. 

If we are to address the health challenges of an aging and increasingly diverse population, and remain a vibrant force in the global economy, America needs more investment in medical research, not less. We respectfully urge Congress and the Administration to work together on a solution that preserves the nation's investment in medical research and the health of the American people.



More information on sequestration

Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Non-defense Jobs and Services
A report commissioned by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

United for Medical Research: “The Impact of a Sequester on the National Institutes of Health and the Implications for Jobs and the U.S. Economy”

American Heart Association: Sequestration Information Page

United for Medical Research: “Leadership in Decline”

The White House: Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs, and Economic Security.