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HHS Secretary Defends Proposed Cuts at NIH; GOP and Democrats Skeptical

HHS Secretary Tom Price

Washington, DC, March 31, 2017 — Lev Facher reports on STAT that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price on March 29 defended the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to medical research, saying that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget is plagued by unnecessary expenses.

The remarks came a day after reports that the administration had proposed an additional $1.2 billion cut to the NIH for the current fiscal year, on top of a suggested $5.8 billion cut for 2018.

The NIH’s 2016 budget totaled $32.3 billion.

“Our goal is to fashion a budget that focuses on the things that work, that tries to decrease the areas where there are either duplications or redundancies or waste, and whether indeed we can get a larger return for the American taxpayer,” Price told a House committee.

Price also noted that given across-the-board HHS spending cuts, the NIH next year will continue to receive roughly one-third of total department funding.

Republicans and Democrats alike questioned Price on the nature of the cuts at a health appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

Members of Congress from both parties have expressed either skepticism or flat unwillingness to support President Trump’s initial 2018 budget recommendations.

Price repeatedly suggested reducing the amount the NIH pays universities to cover “overhead” costs, like lab equipment and utilities.  That would let the agency direct more of its funds to actual research, even if the overall budget were reduced, he said.

For Facher’s full story, click here.

To follow Facher on Twitter, visit @levfacher.

Follow STAT — which reports from the frontiers of health and medicine — on Twitter @statnews.