The National Institutes of Health is the world's premier medical science funding agency and has long held a special place in congressional hearts. It's hard to say no when your mission is finding the causes and cures for dreaded diseases. And when 80% of your $30 billion annual budget goes to medical researchers at universities and not-for-profit institutions in all 50 states, widespread political support is all but guaranteed.
But a new investigative report from the Cancer Letter, a Washington-based newsletter that follows the National Cancer Institute, which receives 16% of NIH's budget, may give some legislators pause before exempting the agency from the 2% budget cuts contained in the sequester. Using documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the news-letter discovered NCI spent more than $380 million on public relations during the past six years, including $45 million in the past year alone.
Not only was that more than any other NIH institute or center, the newsletter said, but it was nearly twice as much as the Food and Drug Administration spent alerting the public to its activities, which include protecting more than 300 million Americans from unsafe and ineffective drugs and medical devices and overseeing the safety of much of the nation's food supply. It's often said that the FDA regulates products that make up fully 25% of the nation's economy.