'BODY-COUNT BUDGETING'? Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) is concerned that diseases that cost taxpayers the most money may not be getting a proportionate amount of NIH funds.
For the third year in a row, the National Institutes of Health came under fire this month for slighting some diseases and favoring more politically correct ills when it parcels out its research-funding billions. "What this whole thing boils down to," NIH director Harold Varmus recently told a special Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee studying NIH priority-setting, "is whether you think the NIH does a good job in assigning the money it gets."

Varmus and other high-level NIH officials clearly think they do quite well indeed in allocating research dollars--$13.6 billion this year, and $14.8 billion under the administration's proposed budget for next year--to fund basic science and support research into, essentially, all human ailments. But not everybody agrees. In particular, many of the...

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