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AAMC Concerned With Research Policy Provisions in House Labor-HHS Spending Bill

October 5, 2012—The AAMC joined more than 200 organizations and institutions representing patients, scientists, health care providers, and industry in an Oct. 1 letter  expressing concerns about provisions for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) included in the FY 2013 draft spending bill adopted by the House Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee July 18 [see Washington Highlights, July 20].  The letter was sent to Subcommittee Chair Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

The letter states the bill “provides insufficient funds for NIH, imposes burdensome and duplicative certification requirements on NIH and HHS, and undermines the efforts of NIH to manage its portfolio effectively. Crippling NIH by freezing its funding while at the same time reducing its flexibility with well-intended but ill-conceived mandates will ultimately delay the search for cures and treatments intended to benefit the American people.”

“Many of the bill’s other policy provisions over-regulate NIH and may inadvertently impede the agency’s ongoing efforts to improve the stewardship of its resources,” the letter notes.  These include setting an “arbitrary” ratio of extramural to intramural research funding, prescribing the number of training awards that NIH should fund in FY 2013, lowering the extramural salary cap to Executive Level III, and prohibiting NIH from using funds “for any economic research programs, projects, or activities.”

The letter also urges the committee “to reconsider the bill’s language that prohibits funding ‘to support any patient-centered outcomes research,’ a provision that will thwart ongoing efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of patient care, particularly when coupled with the committee’s unwarranted elimination of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.”

In addition, the letter raises concerns about section 223 of the bill, which would prohibit the use of funds “for any program, project, or activity (PPA) related to research until” the Secretary of Health and Human Services has certified that the PPA “is of significantly high scientific value” and has a “measurable” impact on public health. Section 223 also requires that the certification include “an explanation of how the success of the [PPA] will be measured with respect to its impact on public health.”

The letter cautions, “Such a requirement will effectively eliminate the creative explorations that may lead to paradigm shifting basic discoveries and potentially innovative therapeutic approaches....  Imposing these restrictions on fundamental research would delay important advances, at best, and, most likely, serve as a permanent barrier to advancing the most innovative and promising research.”

“Requiring HHS to certify all NIH PPAs,” the letter warns, “Section 223 would also impose a crushing and wholly unnecessary administrative burden upon both the department and the agency,... would be both redundant and far inferior to NIH peer review,... [and] would divert the agency’s limited resources from the core aspects of its mission.”

The letter concludes by urging the committee “to reconsider the implications of this language and remove it from the final funding package, whether the bill moves independently or is made part of a larger spending measure.”


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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