NIH Legislation Introduced in Congress; Fate of Bills Uncertain
Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Medical Innovation Act (H.R. 744), which seeks to increase funding for medical research by requiring large pharmaceutical companies that break the law and settle with the federal government to reinvest a small percentage of their profits into NIH. The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).
Meanwhile, Representatives Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), David Loebsack (D-Iowa), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), and Raul Ruiz, M.D., (D-Calif.) introduced the Permanent Investment in Health Research Act (H.R. 777), which would make NIH funding mandatory instead of subjecting the agency to the annual discretionary appropriations process. In a press release, Rep. Castor said, “We will only save lives if we can robustly fund medical research in America and keep America as a world leader. Today, funding for medical research is discretionary and at the mercy of the budget battles in Congress. This harms momentum towards cures and creates economic uncertainty.”
On January 28, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) reintroduced the American Cures Act (S. 289) to support research at the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Defense Health Program (DHP), and the Veterans Medical and Prosthetics Research Program. The bill would provide a steady growth rate in federal appropriations for biomedical research conducted at aforementioned agencies and programs by increasing funding at a rate of GDP-indexed inflation plus five percent. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) are original cosponsors of the bill. This is the NIH legislation most likely to pass Congress, but like the others, its fate is still unknown.