DARIEN, IL – As federal lawmakers debate the spending priorities outlined recently in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) urges Congress to build rather than diminish research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new budget proposal requests $25.9 billion for NIH, which is a reduction of $5.8 billion, or 18.3 percent, relative to the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level. Specific details are not yet available, making it uncertain whether the projected cost savings would be achieved mainly by reducing research funding or to some extent by consolidation of organizational structures. Either way, the proposal risks “fixing” something that is not broken.

“Research funding from the National Institutes of Health yields scientific discoveries that enable so many Americans to live longer, healthier and more productive lives,” said AASM President Dr. Ronald Chervin. “It is critical that we continue to grow our nation’s longstanding commitment to support biomedical research. This work creates the very foundation for informed, effective, and cost-effective health care.” 

At a March 29 hearing before the appropriations subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price tnew lawmakers that the proposed NIH reductions would be achieved in part by eliminating funds that universities and research institutions can use to pay indirect costs. However, the AASM is concerned that eliminating this overhead funding, which supports the infrastructure necessary to operate a high-quality research lab, would have a downstream, chilling effect on research activity.

Equally concerning is the administration’s vague proposal to reorganize NIH through consolidation and other unspecified structural changes, ostensibly to focus resources on the highest priorities. Although greater efficiency in government spending is always welcome, organizational changes to the NIH could well risk elimination of vital institutes and centers, along with critical research that they fund.

For example, long-term research supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has helped to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by more than 70 percent in the past 40 years. NHLBI, which houses the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), also funds investigations that help improve the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This chronic disease increases the risk of key health complications, including hypertension and stroke, which threaten to shorten many lives if left unchecked.

It also is reported that the Trump administration has recommended immediate research funding cuts as one option for lawmakers to consider as they craft a spending bill, which must be passed by April 28 to avert a government shutdown. These options reportedly include reducing NIH research grants for the current budget year by $1.2 billion.

In addition to promoting scientific breakthroughs, NIH funding sparks economic growth by supporting jobs, generating innovations with commercial potential, and stimulating increased investment in the private sector. It is estimated that NIH extramural funding generated $60 billion in economic output nationwide in 2015. Each year NIH awards more than 57,000 research and training grants that support approximately 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities and organizations in every state. Every dollar of this external medical research funding, distributed by the NIH to universities and other groups nationwide, is estimated to add an additional $2.2 to local economies.

The AASM encourages its members and all other medical professionals to contact their representatives and senators, urging them to ensure that the federal budget continues to grow a robust and vital level of funding for NIH research.

CONTACT: Corinne Lederhouse, 630-737-9700, clederhouse@aasm.org

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) improves sleep health and promotes high quality, patient-centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards. The AASM has a combined membership of 10,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals.