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What A Difference A Year Makes
By Greg Brozeit

Proposed funding scenarios released by the Bush administration for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its largest institute, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), offer little promise of new research benefiting the myeloma community and other smaller, under-funded cancer research programs.

Last year it looked certain that the president and Congress would fulfill the five-year plan of doubling the funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a total of $27.3 billion. Now it looks certain that the most optimistic numbers will be about $500 million below that target. And that comes after the delay of scheduled increases because the budget for the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2002 still has not passed.

Following President Bush's State-of-the-Union Address and the release of the administration's budget proposal, we must now admit the trend is very, very different than it has been the past few years.

According to figures obtained by the National Coalition of Cancer Research, the fiscal year 2004 budget requests $27.907 billion for NIH, an increase of just under 2% compared to the expected figures for fiscal year 2003. This small increase sets an anemic trend as evidenced by the projected funding levels for NIH in subsequent years as listed below.

Fiscal Year 2004 -- $27.907 billion

Fiscal Year 2005 -- $28.425 billion

Fiscal Year 2006 -- $29.000 billion

Fiscal Year 2007 -- $29.636 billion

Fiscal Year 2008 -- $30.385 billion

This comes after 5 years averaging just under 15% annual increases when NIH funding jumped from less than $14 billion to more than $27 billion. So after increases of more than $13 billion, the proposal submitted by the Bush administration would increase funding approximately $2.5 billion over the same period. The budget can be accessed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni and NCI Director Andrew von Eschenbach have each publicly stated that annual increases of about 8% are need to maintain current research programs. So the prospects of less than 2% increases has dire consequences, especially after the hopes of many of the smaller cancer constituencies like myeloma have been raised by promises of action.

These proposals would render legislation such as Hematological Cancer Reinvestment Act meaningless because no funding would be provided to fulfill its intentions.

The NCI budget justification, or, in plain English, how the institute intends to budget the administration's request, can be found at http://www4.od.nih.gov/officeofbudget/FY04pubs/Overview.pdf.

Next week's edition of the Myeloma Minute will feature the first of a series of articles outlining the IMF's positions to respond to these threats.

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