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US Senate Passes Spending Bill Granting NIH $39.1 Billion

Alzheimer’s disease will receive $2.3 billion, the biggest chunk of change devoted to one of the NIH’s various interests.

Aug 27, 2018
Sukanya Charuchandra

ABOVE: ©ISTOCK, F11PHOTO

Update (September 14): Yesterday, Congress approved a spending bill for 2019, granting the National Institutes of Health $39.1 billion, a $2 billion raise from the previous fiscal year’s budget. 

The US Senate passed a spending bill last week (August 23) allotting $39.1 billion to the National Institutes of Health for the 2019 fiscal year starting on October 1. This is 5.4 percent or $2 billion more than fiscal year 2018. The boost to the biomedical research agency is part of an $854-billion funding “minibus” to support defense, labor, education, and health and human services. 

“For the fourth straight year, the Senate has provided record funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health—$2 billion additional dollars in the first year, $2 billion the second year, $3 billion the third year, and $2 billion this year, which is a 30% increase over the last four years,” says Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

The beneficiary of the largest boost in funding is Alzheimer’s disease research—up $425 million from last year, bringing the total to $2.3 billion. According to MedPage Today, “If we do not find the cure for Alzheimer’s by the time we reach the year 2050, the budget at Medicare and Medicaid for taking care of Alzheimer’s patients will be equal to the defense budget of our country,” Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) said on the Senate floor during the legislative process. Presently, $277 billion in taxpayer money is spent on patients with the neurodegenerative disease. According to Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), the defense budget is predicted to go up to $1.1 trillion by 2050.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will direct $500 million—up $145 million from the previous year—towards efforts that tackle the opioid epidemic. 

Additionally, the increase will allow the NIH to award 1,100 grants via an initiative supporting new investigators.

“In addition to benefiting the health of all Americans, this additional funding will support well-paying jobs across the country, strengthen the economy—nationally, regionally, and locally—and make America more competitive in science and technology,” Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, says in a statement.

The House of Representatives will be debating the bill once the summer recess concludes. The functioning of the various departments expecting funding will grind to a halt in the absence of Congress’ implementation of the bill by September 30.

The budget for fiscal year 2018 ends September 30.

Correction (September 4): We erroneously stated that Senator Lamar Alexander represents Texas.  He is the Republican senator from Tennessee. The Scientist regrets the error.  

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