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Executive Summary

NIH HAS "LOST PEOPLE" BECAUSE OF LOW SALARIES paid to its scientists, HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan told the House HHS Appropriations Subcommittee on March 16. Asserting that National Institutes of Health staffers have made "a great financial sacrifice," Sullivan said that "we've lost people there" to employers in the private sector and academia that offer more attractive compensation. NIH and FDA are under "tremendous pressure" because government compensation for scientists has "fallen so far behind salaries for comparable scientists in the private sector," Sullivan said. The problem has become "so severe" that it is "virtually impossible for NIH to recruit top scientists from outside the government" and "very difficult" to retain current scientists, he warned. Sullivan described recent funding for NIH as "one of the best investments the federal government has made in terms of improving the health of the people, as well as our nation's economy." He said he is "very committed . . . to address this problem." Commenting on the proposed HHS budget, Sullivan said that he has developed an HHS task force and is creating a "permanent position" in the department to coordinate drug research and treatment activities. That position will be filled "in the near future." Sullivan said HHS also is looking for some adjustments, particularly more money for primary care and minority health issues. "We are working to see if we can really focus on some of those issues in a more favorable way," he said. "As the year progresses, we expect we will be successful in finding ways to fund some of the programs in that budget to a better degree than presently envisioned."

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