New Report Recommends Increasing NIH Budget to Lower Costs, Improve Health

March 25, 2019

WASHINGTON—Federal funding for biology and human health research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a track record of improving health outcomes and lowering costs to society. However, a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, shows NIH funding fell by nearly 25 percent from 2003 to 2015 as a percent of GDP. The report reviews recent successes from NIH research and calls on Congress to both increase NIH funding and commit to regular funding increases in future budgets.

“NIH funding has been critical to discovering new medicines and treatments, improving quality of life, increasing lifespans, and reducing costs to society from illness,” said Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF President and author of the report. “To continue this success, Congress should commit to steady funding increases for NIH, rather than the boom and bust cycles of recent appropriations.”

Restoring funding to previous budget levels will require Congress to appropriate an additional $7.4 billion in FY 2020. As such, the report recommends Congress increase the NIH budget by $8 billion annually over the next two years and subsequently maintain steady increases, ideally 2 to 3 percentage points faster than the nominal rate of GDP growth.

The report outlines four primary justifications for strong federal government investment in life sciences research:

  1. Funding leads to better medicines and health outcomes for Americans, reducing societal health care costs.
  2. Funding supports the ecosystem conditions that enable a vibrant U.S. life-sciences industry. 
  3. NIH funding helps support U.S. biopharmaceutical industry competitiveness.
  4. The United States cannot afford to depend on foreign nations like China for drugs. Robust NIH funding helps ensure that America is not overly dependent on potential adversaries.

“Investment in biomedical research today leads to new drugs that improve health and reduce costs to society tomorrow,” said Atkinson. “At a time when other countries are doubling their investments in life-sciences research, the United States should ensure its life sciences ecosystem can remain globally competitive.”

Read the report.