Biomedical Research Community Concerned About Cuts in Proposed 2020 Budget

On March 11, President Donald Trump released his proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, called “A Budget for a Better America,” that includes a substantial 12-percent cut to funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This amounts to a $4.7-billion decrease in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the U.S.’s largest provider of funding for biomedical research.

The administration’s budget also removes $750 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, the proposed budget outlines funding increases for several HHS programs, including efforts to rein in rising prescription drug costs and curb the opioid epidemic. The administration also proposes a $50-million increase for pediatric cancer research for the next fiscal year.

While cancer researchers and health-care associations welcomed an increase in funding for pediatric cancer research, they argued that any potential benefit would not offset the harms caused by decreases in the overall funding. The overall funding for the National Cancer Institute, they noted, would drop by almost $900 million, or 14.5 percent, in the proposed budget.

Organizations are calling for Congress to reject the budget. 2019 American Society of Hematology (ASH) President Roy Silverstein, MD, expressed disappointment in the proposed budget: “ASH is deeply concerned that the president’s proposal to cut public health funding will jeopardize existing research programs, potentially halt exploration into new and promising avenues of study, and negatively affect our nation’s health.”

He urged Congress to pass an NIH budget of at least $41.6 billion, which represents a $2.5-billion increase over its 2019 funding. With a higher budget, he said, the agency could “continue to support existing research, including projects included in the Innovation Account established by the 21st Century Cures Act, such as the Precision Medicine Initiative, and also support new programs in promising fields.” ASH also encouraged Congress to provide the CDC with at least $7.8 billion in fiscal year 2020.

Source: The Washington Post, March 11, 2019; American Society of Hematology press release, March 12, 2019.