Sens. Durbin, Graham: 2017 Spending Bill Critical for NIH

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By Jeannie Baumann

July 13 — If Congress doesn't pass a budget by the end of the year, it would set back medical research, two Senate appropriators said July 13.

“Continuing resolutions take all the money away,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, adding that there may a short-term resolution when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 due to this “crazy thing called an election.” “But I am not going to vote for a continuing resolution that goes into the next Congress. We need to solidify and maintain the gains we’ve achieved this budget year.”

The National Institutes of Health is poised to see some type of increase in FY 2017 to its $32 billion budget, as the Senate has proposed a $2 billion increase, the House has offered a $1.25 billion increase, and President Barack Obama's budget would provide an $825 million increase (10 LSLR 15, 7/22/16). The increases aim to reverse more than a dozen years of flat funding that have resulted in a 20 percent decline in the NIH's purchasing power.

“When it comes to NIH and funding, the best days are yet to come,” Graham said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) agreed that a continuing resolution is “not going to give us that growth” to fund programs like the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

“If we screw this up with a continuing resolution, it’s going to unfortunately not give us that growth for however long that runs. Secondly, if we get into some kind of budget deal that brings down the numbers in the Senate for spending in this area, we may lose in this exchange,” Durbin said. “This is something we can and must do,”

Graham and Durbin are co-chairmen of the Senate NIH Caucus and delivered opening remarks at a July 13 briefing, “NIH Funding and the Promise Of NIH Alzheimer’s Research.” The research funding advocacy group ActforNIH organized the briefing on the same day that the White House held a conference on aging that included several initiatives for living with Alzheimer's disease and related diseases. One of the speakers at the briefing, Ronald C. Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Rochester, Minn., also testified during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Alzheimer's disease later that day.

4.2 Percent Increase for Aging Institute in 2016

Laurie Ryan, chief of the Dementias of Aging branch in the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, said the $2 billion increase in 2016 provided her institute with a 4.2 percent increase. She said that money will help the agency meet its goals under a national plan released four years ago to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025.

“There’s a lot of research that we haven't been able to fund,” Ryan said. “We’re very confident that the field is ready.”

David A. Bennett, who director the Alzheimer's disease center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said, “The roadmap for what needs to be done is generally clear. So what the additional money will do is it will allow us to do that work in parallel rather in series.”

Ryan said the NIA will release this summer a 2018 bypass budget on Alzheimer's disease, or the agency's estimate of additional funding needed to meet the goal of finding effective treatments and preventions for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025. The first-ever NIH bypass budget on Alzheimer's went out last August (10 LSLR 15, 7/22/16).

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington jbaumann@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin rkubetin@bna.com

For More Information

Information on the White House conference on aging is at http://src.bna.com/gLc.

Information on the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Alzheimer's disease is at http://src.bna.com/gLd.

The national plan to address Alzheimer's disease is at http://src.bna.com/gLf.

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