The country’s top heart doctors and health researchers fear that the Trump administration’s proposed 20 percent or $5.8 billion cut to the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s budget will radically impact work that produces life-saving heart medications.
As there are fewer heart drugs in development given that greater focus is on in-demand areas such as cancer, NIH-funded studies may be more critical than ever in the field, according to experts attending a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart Experts Worry Over Budget Cut’s Effects
"There are trials that we have to do that will never be funded by drug companies. We rely on NIH," said Cleveland Clinic’s head of preventive cardiology Dr. Leslie Cho, as reported by Reuters.
Heart disease remains the top killer in the country, reminded the experts, noting that scientists instrumental to the creation of leading heart drugs today had obtained funding from the NIH.
The government-funded Sprint trial, for instance, discovered that more aggressive therapy using generic blood pressure drugs significantly slashed heart failure and death risk in people ages 50 and above.
Dr. Clyde Yancy, former president of the American Heart Association, dubbed the planned budget cuts “a landmine waiting to explode.” He is foreseeing a grim scenario: laboratories getting closed down, personnel getting axed, and research proposals abandoned.
Cleveland Clinic’s cardiology head Dr. Steven Nissen recalled the work that produced statins, calling for funding other scientists who could turn out to be like Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein, the cholesterol drug’s creators.
The hope is now with the U.S. Congress, which could shoot down the proposed cuts.
The NIH, Science Agencies In Focus
As one of the world’s primary research centers, the NIH is likely to be greatly affected by the budget proposal from the White House, which not only outlined a funding reduction but also eliminated money for research initiatives in various federal agencies.
About 80 percent of NIH funding is channeled into the country’s medical centers and universities, according to Joanne Carney of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But it’s not just graduate students who are potentially at risk, but also undergrads who need resources as well.
A blueprint of the proposed White House budget reflected cuts in other science agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the energy department’s Office of Science, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
NOAA budget cuts, for one, are feared to weaken the major climate science agency’s plans and programs such as weather satellite systems, research into coastal communities and ocean science, and innovations in climate studies.
Health advocates appear to be among those most discouraged by current developments.
“[Trump’s budget] doesn’t reflect the priorities of a nation committed to protecting and improving the health and well-being of its citizens,” said Mary Woolley, president of nonprofit Research!America, said in an NYT report.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson himself tweeted that the fastest way to build a “sick” country is to cut NIH funding.
Let’s not even get to NASA-led science missions that are on the losing end in the proposed budget.