FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2014
|CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
NAEVR TO SENATE: AS NEI FUNDING HAS DECREASED, THE INCIDENCE AND COST OF EYE DISORDERS HAVE INCREASED
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) submitted written testimony to the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee regarding Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding. The Subcommittee had held its FY2015 NIH budget hearing on April 2 with NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. and senior NIH staff. NAEVR’s testimony mirrors that which the Alliance submitted on March 28 to the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee after its March 26 hearing with Dr. Collins.
In requesting NIH funding at $32 billion and NEI funding at $730 million, NAEVR urged the Senate to improve upon the President’s budget proposal to fund NIH at $30.1 billion, a $200 million or 0.7 percent increase over FY2014, and NEI at $675.1 million, a $0.9 million or 0.15 percent increase over its FY2014 operational net.
NAEVR’s request would result in a full restoration of the FY2013 sequester cut that was partially restored in FY2014 and enable an inflationary increase-the NIH and NEI have lost 22 and 25 percent of their purchasing power, respectively, in terms of constant dollars—and provide for modest growth. NAEVR’s testimony focused primarily on NEI funding, noting that the sequester cut resulted in NEI awarding 30 fewer grants—any one of which may have held the promise to save sight and restore vision. The President’s FY2015 proposal would result in 23 fewer grants.
NAEVR emphasized that NEI’s budget has been decreasing, despite the partial restoration of sequester cuts. Due to the transfer back to the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR) of funding from the dissolved NEI Ocular Implications of AIDS study, the NEI appropriation has been reduced. As a result, any increase—even the modest 0.15 percent increase proposed-is based on the lower operational net. As a result, over the past two funding cycles, NEI funding has decreased while the incidence and cost of eye disease and vision impairment has increased. NAEVR cites the 2013 Prevent Blindness America study that estimated the annual cost of vision disorders at $139 billion and cited the associated direct medical costs as the fifth highest of any disease—only less than heart disease, cancers, emotional disorders, and pulmonary conditions.
NAEVR concluded its testimony by quoting February 2014 comments by NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. regarding the potential of the NEI primary “Audacious Goal” of Regenerating Neurons and Neuronal Connections in the Eye and Visual System:
“The goals are bold but achievable. They are beyond what medicine currently can do. We are planning for a 10-12-15 year effort to reach these endpoints. Success would transform life for millions of people with eye and vision diseases. It would have major implications for medicine of the future, for vision diseases, and even beyond this, for neurological diseases.”
The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. Visit the Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.