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NIH OFFICE OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FUNDING LEVEL WOULD BE INCREASED TO $ 4 MIL.

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

NIH OFFICE OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE FUNDING LEVEL WOULD BE INCREASED TO $ 4 MIL. under the Senate's fiscal 1994 HHS appropriations bill. The appropriations bill would effectively double OAM's current FY 1993 budget of $ 2 mil. In the Appropriations Committee's report on the bill, the committee directed OAM to "continue to perform field investigations for the purpose of preliminary data gathering as well as support clinical investigations of nutritional supplements through the established grant program." The report maintains that the $ 4 mil. would provide "sufficient funding for additional scientific investigators who shall be available to travel, as necessary, to conduct preliminary medical investigations into these alternative treatments." The committee also declared that NIH should It continue to provide the highest level of support for [OAM] to carry out the directives from the committee." The Senate Appropriations Committee's FY 1994 spending bill for HHS (HR 2518) was reported out of committee on Sept. 14 following HHS subcommittee approval earlier that day. Full Senate consideration of the bill began on Sept. 24 and is expected to continue through Sept. 28. The House has already cleared an HHS appropriations bill for FY 1994. Speaking at the Council for Responsible Nutrition's annual meeting on Sept. 22, OAM Director Joseph Jacobs, MD complained that the office's current $ 2 mil. per year funding level, which he called "almost laughable," prevents OAM from doing "an active job in the area of nutrition" research. OAM cannot assume an active role in nutrition research, Jacobs continued, because "we have some institutes that are really working in that area" and because OAM does "not have the staff to cover" intensive research. Jacobs said that while he is "not so cynical" that he believes that studies "can only be done with billions of dollars," he cautioned the CRN group not to "expect to have definitive studies come out of [OAM]" under current funding levels. Instead, Jacobs suggested that OAM would attempt to "support research" on nutrition via contracting for expertise in the area, or coming out with "small scale pilot studies where you wouldn't necessarily have to fund the pilot studies" but just form a "board of individuals to monitor the data and also to ensure that the information is recorded on safety as well as on the efficacy of the treatment." The OAM director noted that, under the auspices of his office, a clinical evaluation of shark cartilage has begun for the treatment of cancer. During a June Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on OAM activities ("The Tan Sheet" June 28, p. 11), a researcher involved in the shark cartilage study told the committee that he had not yet received federal funding for his trials but had applied for funding under a March request for applications (RFA) issued by OAM. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has shown a strong interest in the progress of the young office, and has indicated that he would convene another hearing on alternative medicine sometime in the late fall. Separately, in a fiscal 1995 "bypass" budget developed by the National Cancer Institute and released this month, NCI proposed a budget of $ 100 mil. for a cancer prevention and bionutrition research center that would "provide support for a dedicated facility to conduct the full range of cancer prevention and bionutrition research, from basic biology to the development of applications and their validation in population studies." Overall, the bypass budget proposes $ 3.6 bil. for NCI in FY 1995, a 63% increase over President Clinton's FY 1994 budget request of $ 2.04 bil. The FY 1994 HHS appropriations bill being considered by the Senate sets NCI funding at $ 2.1 bil.
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