We are international

Advocates Needed to Contact Congress to Increase Medical Research Funding
By Greg Brozeit

Leaders in the Senate and House who are moving to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) above the 2.5% recommended by President Bush need your voices of support within the next two weeks.

Please contact your senators and representatives to express your support for the Senate and House initiatives described below. Talking points are included below to assist you in making your requests.

Please contact IMF Advocate Greg Brozeit at greg.brozeit@sbcglobal.net if you have any questions.

Support the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein Amendment to the Labor, HHS Appropriations Bill

Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) plan to introduce an amendment to the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill when Congress reconvenes on September 2, 2003 to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The current Senate bill provides a $1 billion increase for NIH. The Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment would add $1.5 billion to the bill's current level, thereby providing a $2.5 billion or 9.2% increase over last year.

The Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment is consistent with the recommendation made by One Voice Against Cancer (OVAC) and others in the health community. Earlier this year, the Senate passed an amendment calling for an 8.5 percent increase for NIH during debate on the Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Resolution, by a vote of 96-1. The Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment would fulfill that intention.

Ask Your House Representatives to Sign the Capps/Bell Letter in Support of Increased NIH Funds

Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Chris Bell (D-TX) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter in support of higher NIH funding. Dear Colleague letters are internal congressional communications mechanisms to gather supporters on specific issues.

Representatives Capps and Bell are asking other members of the House to sign a letter to the House and Senate leadership that will decide the final funding figures after the bills are voted on by the full House and Senate. Should the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment pass in the Senate, this letter will voice House support for the higher funding levels.

The letter asks the leadership to find more money for NIH to sustain medical research progress. The sign on letter notes that NIH leadership told the house last year that "the current pace of discovery could only be sustained with an increase of 8-10%."

The letter is currently being circulated. Please ask your representatives to contact Sonia Kandathil in Representative Capps’ or Channing Johnston in Representative Bell’s office to sign the letter to the leadership. If they have already signed on, please thank them for their support.


Prior Investments in Research Led to Breakthroughs

  • A strong Federal commitment to biomedical research and public health programs represents the nation’s best defense against cancer and provides hope of survival to the over 1.3 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

  • The infusion of funding over the past five years has yielded breakthroughs in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, including cancer.

  • The development of molecularly-targeted drugs, such as Gleevec, that attack only cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue alone is one example of the remarkable advances the investment has generated.

  • Research at the National Cancer Institute led to the development of a simple and inexpensive blood test to help detect prostate cancer at an early stage, when it can be treated most successfully. In the past five years, annual prostate cancer deaths have been reduced by 28%.

  • An investment of $56 million in testicular cancer research has enabled a 91% cure rate and a savings of $166 million annually.

Cancer Remains the Number Two Killer

  • Although progress is being made, cancer remains the number two killer in the United States. This year, about 556,500 Americans are expected to die of cancer – more than 1,500 people a day.

  • The National Institutes of Health estimates overall costs for cancer at $171.6 billion in 2002, including $60.9 billion in direct health expenditures.

House and Senate Plans Threaten Medical Research Progress

  • Over the last five years, Congress has helped accelerate the pace of medical research. We applaud that effort. However, we are very concerned that a dramatic drop in investment in Fiscal Year 2004 will threaten medical research progress.

  • The NIH can still only fund one out of every four meritorious research proposals. This means three out of every four research opportunities could be lost.

  • During a hearing last year, NIH leadership noted that the current pace of discovery could only be sustained with an increase of 8-10 percent (NIH Acting Director Ruth Kirschstein, March 21, 2002 testimony before the Senate Labor/HHS Subcommittee).

  • The One Voice Against Cancer Coalition was disappointed with the President's Fiscal Year 2004 budget, which called for a 2.5% increase for research programs at the National Institutes of Health.

  • The House has agreed with the President's request to fund NIH at $27.664 billion in Fiscal Year 2004. This represents an increase of $682 million or 2.5 percent over the FY03 budget.

  • Some have characterized the proposed FY04 NIH budget as an increase of 7 percent if "one-time costs" from 2003 are removed. It is our understanding that these one-time costs include monies spent on intramural and extramural research infrastructure projects, including bioterrrorism facilities. The actual increase proposed by the President and the House for FY04 is only 2.5% above the FY03 NIH budget.

  • The proposal approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee contained a $1 billion (3.7 percent) increase in the NIH budget - $318 million more than the House bill.

  • In July, over 500 health organizations expressed concern with the proposed funding levels in a letter to the President and Congress. The letter said that proposed funding levels threaten medical research progress and urged the House and Senate to add more money for the NIH.

 related articles