Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's in the President’s proposal and what does it mean to patients?

At a recent science fair at the White House, President Barack Obama said science and technology is “what’s going to make a difference in this country over the long haul.” We in the medical research advocacy community couldn’t agree more. Sustained investment in science and technology is key to a thriving life sciences industry, but most importantly, to delivering effective therapies that will improve health and quality of life.

But does the president’s proposed budget reflect his priority on science and research?

The administration’s proposed budget has kept funding flat for the two agencies with crucial roles to play in our nation’s scientific framework – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Here are the numbers:
  • The proposed NIH budget is at 2012 levels at $30.7 billion. Many NIH institutes under this plan would receive virtually the same amount of funding as this year. Of note is the additional funding designated for the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which grew by 10 percent to $639 million – where much of this increase goes to the Cures Acceleration Network, whose allocation increases from $10 million to $50 million.

  • Meanwhile, the president has kept the budget mostly flat for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requesting $4.5 billion, a figure that includes budget authority, current user fees, and proposed new fees. Only $2.5 billion of the FDA budget is from appropriated funds, the same as FY 12. According to Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures and president of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, “the key thing to watch is the actual budget appropriation, and not the user fees. It is the appropriated dollars that are used to run the agency and pay for overseeing imported goods, assuring food safety, and stimulating medical product innovation and ensuring safety, as well as dealing with inevitable crises, such as seafood safety during the Gulf oil spill.”

  • Overall, funding for non-defense research and development actually increased by 5 percent, pushing it up to $64.9 billion.
The operative word throughout all this is “PROPOSED.”

What this really means is that the appropriations process is under way. Now, Members of Congress start the process of determining their priorities.

Now, it’s time for us to make a compelling case for why this funding matters. We’ve gone so far in advancing our knowledge of science and technology -- now we must ensure this knowledge is translated into effective therapies that will improve and promote public health.

Funding matters.

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