President’s 2017 Budget Shortchanges Kidney Research

On February 9, 2016, President Barack Obama released his budget proposal for 2017, the official start of the congressional budget process. Although the proposal includes increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other ASN priorities, it relies on budget gimmicks that some congressional appropriators are calling nonstarters.

With those budget gimmicks, the President’s proposal would increase NIH funding overall by $825 million for a total of $33 billion. However, the entire increase would go to a handful of administration priorities that include the Cancer Moonshot, Precision Medicine Initiative, and BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. None of the additional funds would go to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and most of the other 26 institutes and centers are similarly shortchanged. Instead, NIDDK’s budget for 2017 would remain flat at $1.966 million.

“ASN commended President Obama in 2016 for his bold leadership in securing a budget increase for NIH and NIDDK,” ASN President Raymond C. Harris, MD, FASN, recalled. “Regrettably, his 2017 budget proposal would shortchange NIDDK and kidney research. Change is on the way because of advances made through NIDDK-funded kidney research. Additional funding is needed to accelerate these and other novel therapies that could improve the care of patients with kidney disease and result in significant savings to Medicare,” Harris said.

ASN, in partnership with more than 200 patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, and academic and research organizations, is advocating for a 2017 request for NIH of $34.5 billion, about a 7% increase over 2016. As a leader in Friends of NIDDK, a coalition that advocates collaboratively for increased NIDDK funding, ASN is spearheading the kidney community’s efforts to advocate for a 2017 budget request for NIDDK of $2.165 billion, about a 10% increase over 2017. NIDDK ranked near the bottom of the list of NIH 2016 funding increases by institute and center (Figure 1).

Figure 1. NIH funding increase by institute and center

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“The story of cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDs is clear. Researchers go where the dollars are and funding increases drive innovation,” ASN Research Advocacy Committee Chair Frank “Chip” Brosius, MD, commented. “HIV/AIDs went from a death sentence in the 1980s to essentially a chronic disease today. That kind of progress is possible with kidney disease if we are visionary enough to provide NIDDK sustainable funding increases for kidney research.”