The Trump administration unveiled a proposed FY 2018 budget on Tuesday, May 23, that would cut funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $7 billion, about a 23 percent reduction from current levels. In a statement from American Society of Nephrology (ASN) President Eleanor D. Lederer, MD, FASN, the society denounced the budget and maintained that NIH funding cuts of the level proposed could disrupt medical research, impede the development of innovative treatments for the 40 million Americans living with kidney diseases, and ultimately costs more money for the treatment of kidney diseases and failure.
ASN publicly urged Congress to reject the proposed cuts and requested a $2 billion funding increase in FY 2018 for the NIH over FY 2017 levels stating “ASN urges Congress to defend America’s position as the global leader in medical research by rejecting these proposed cuts.” For the past two years, Congress has added a $2 billion boost for the NIH after about a dozen years without a substantial increase.
Overall, the budget seeks $1.5 trillion in nondefense discretionary cuts and $1.4 trillion in Medicaid cuts over the course of a decade, while adding nearly half a trillion dollars to defense spending.
Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the chairman of the House health appropriations subcommittee, said he didn’t think the decrease in funding would survive in Congress, saying, “I don’t think it’s a wise choice."
Congress committed in 1972 to provide care for every American with kidney failure regardless of age or income. The Medicare program today spends $103 billion on care for all kidney diseases, and a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlighted that Medicare annually spends approximately $33 billion on care for people with kidney failure alone—equal to the entire annual FY 2017 NIH budget of $33 billion.
Kidney Health Advocacy Day 2017
In a recent Kidney Health Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill sponsored by ASN and the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), kidney care advocates visited with members of Congress and their staff to advocate that NIH cuts after a dozen years of flat NIH funding would only increase the economic burden that kidney diseases have on our healthcare system, and on the millions of kidney patients and their families. By delaying the development of groundbreaking therapies, an increasing number of individuals will continue to require dialysis and opportunities for economic growth will be missed as people with kidney diseases leave the workforce prematurely.
Many peer medical societies and ASN are also expressing concern about the effect the proposed cuts will have on critical programs that support America’s most vulnerable populations, including elimination of $1.3 billion of key initiatives within the Centers for Disease Control, and significant cuts to Medicaid and to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. The cumulative effect of these cuts could have long term consequences for populations that struggle with disproportionately high rates of kidney diseases.