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NIH REAUTHORIZATION CLEARS SENATE PANEL WITH CONTRACEPTIVE RESEARCH

Executive Summary

NIH REAUTHORIZATION CLEARS SENATE PANEL WITH CONTRACEPTIVE RESEARCH funding amendment. The Senate Labor & Human Resources Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the National Institutes of Health on Aug. 1. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Harkin (D-Iowa), would provide $20 mil. in FY 1991 to establish five contraceptive and fertility research centers. Harkin's proposal was approved 10-6. Harkin, who also chairs the Appropriations/HHS Subcommittee, introduced legislation earlier this year (S 2215) to establish three contraceptive research centers and two fertility research centers. Companion legislation (HR 4583) was introduced in the House by Reps. Schroeder (D-Col.) and Snowe (R-Maine). A similar proposal is included in a package of legislation focused on women's health care -- the Women's Health Equity Act -- that was introduced in the House and Senate on July 27 and 31, respectively, with lead sponsorship by Schroeder, Snowe and Sen. Mikulski (D-Md.). Consideration of the amendment instigated a heated committee discussion on abortion-inducing drugs, in particular the French drug RU 486. Panel ranking Republican Hatch (Utah) asked Harkin to withdraw his amendment. "I see it as stopping the [NIH reauthorization] bill and I don't want to be in that posture," he said. Sen. Coats (R-Ind.) offered an unsuccessful amendment to Harkin's measure that would have provided a definition of "contraceptive" and prohibited federal funding for research on abortifacients. Panel Chairman Kennedy (D-Mass.) said the purpose of Coats' amendment was to disrupt the development and marketing of drugs, rather than research. "You're talking about applied research, not basic research, which is the genius of NIH," Kennedy said. He also questioned the measure's effect on drugs that are beneficial treatments for some diseases and, as a side effect, induce abortion. The NIH reauthorization approved by the Labor Committee is a substitute bill replacing Kennedy's S 2857. The committee substitute, sponsored by both Kennedy and Hatch, would authorize$2 bil. in funding for the National Cancer Institute in FY 1991 and "such sums as necessary" in FY 1992-1994 and $1.5 bil. for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for each of the fiscal years 1991-1994. It also would establish an Office of Women's Health Research at NIH "to ensure the appropriate inclusion of women and minorities in health research"; create a National Foundation for Biomedical Research to solicit support for 10 to 12 endowed chairs for senior investigators; set up an outreach program to Eastern European scientists; reauthorize the Biomedical Ethics Board; and continue the moratorium on federally-funded fetal research.
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