X-Message-Number: 885
Date: 09 Jun 92 02:23:31 EDT
From: "Steven B. Harris" <>
Subject: Aging Research Funding

Dear Mr. Soreff:

   I can give you some numbers off-hand.  They're not perfectly
on, but they should be within 10%.

   This country spends about $20 billion a year on biomedical
research all told, of which maybe 10 billion is spent by private
industry, mostly pharmaceutical companies.  Of the other 10
billion in public money, something like 8 billion is spent by the
National Institutes of Health, an umbrella organization which
doles out money to 13 little suborganizations, each of which is
dedicated to a group of diseases.  The fraction of the NIH pie
that goes to each is determined by congress, according to a sort
of "disease of the month" process.  In other words, if an actress
testifies about disease X, and several yucky victims of X
testify, and enough congressmen have family members afflicted
with X, or are realistically scared of getting X themselves one
day, then funding for the institute that looks at X goes up, etc. 
The National Cancer Institute (1 of the 13) gets 25% of the NIH
pie (something like 2 billion a year), which is the largest
piece.  The National Heart, Lung,and Blood Institute (another of
the 13) gets the next largest piece, at something like 20%.  One
of the newest of the 13, the National Institutes on Aging of NIA 
(started in 1976) only gets about 5% of NIH funding, which is
something like 600 million a year right now.  That's due to rise
to a billion a year, with luck, over the next few years as a lot
of Alzheimer's research kicks in.  Not all of NIA money goes to
studying mechanisms of aging directly, of course, and some goes
to social science studies of aging, health care funding research
(how to spend your Medicare dollars more effectively, etc.), and
other things.  I don't know what fraction goes this way, but
probably something like a third.

   To put these numbers into perspective:  We spend $10 billion a
year on all of government biomedical research, but we spend 10
billion a year also on farm price supports (which cost you
another 20 billion at the grocery store), not to mention yet
another 10 billion a year at the Federal level alone on the "War
on Drugs."  I suppose you can guess at the nature of the Harris
Quick Plan for tripling medical research funding <g>.  Of course
these are just a drop in the bucket compared with the 200 billion
a year we spend just on interest on the 3 trillion dollar
national debt, 2 trillion of which was borrowed (in your name,
Mr. Taxpayer) over the last decade.  And the 300 billion a year
we spend on National Defense, and so on.

   Interestingly, we as a country spend about 800 billion a year
on medical care, of which 1/3 goes to people over 65.  Since
people over 65 make up only 12% of the population, it is possible
to infer that we spend (at bare minimum) 200 billion a year on
the _consequences_ of aging, but only 400 million or so on trying
to find out what causes aging.  That's a direct cost to research
ratio of about 500 to 1.  Go figure.  Sort of reminds me of the
rest of American enterprise.

                                    Steve Harris 

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