Funding bill would provide boost to NIH, terminate AHRQ

A House subcommittee has approved a draft fiscal year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill that would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $1.1 billion, but also puts the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) on the chopping block.

The increase in NIH funding comes after director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, spoke at the most recent annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America last fall calling for more resources. The draft spending bill provides a total of $31.2 billion for the NIH, which represents a 3.6 percent increase and is $100 million more than the president’s budget, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Certain research initiatives also would receive a boost under the bill, including a $300 million increase in Alzheimer’s disease research, a $95 million increase to the BRAIN initiative, and $200 million requested by the administration for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

Not every agency would be fiscally unscathed by the spending bill, however, as it would terminate funding for the AHRQ. It also includes a prohibition on patient-centered outcomes research, saying other agencies can carry out activities currently conducted by AHRQ only if the activity is related to the specific priorities of that agency. The decision prompted the AAMC to call the decision “troubling” due to the impact it could have on the development of evidence-based care.

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky) celebrated the draft, issuing a statement that said “This legislation continues our efforts to reduce wasteful spending, to stop harmful and unnecessary regulations that kill jobs and impede economic growth, and to make wise investments in proven programs on behalf of the American taxpayer.”

The draft was approved last week by the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and the bill is scheduled for full committee consideration this week.