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National Institute on Drug Abuse

Director's Report to the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse

May, 1997

Congressional Affairs

NIDA FY 98 House Appropriations Hearing

On March 4, 1997, NIDA Director Dr. Alan Leshner testified before the House Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee to discuss the Institute's FY 98 budget request and to provide subcommittee members with information regarding NIDA's ongoing and future research activities. The President's FY 98 funding request for NIH is $13.078 billion, including $521.9 million for NIDA [a $32.8 million increase over FY 97].

Dr. Leshner provided an overview of what he termed an outstanding year in drug abuse research. He highlighted the Institute's series of town meetings to share what has been learned about drug abuse and prevention strategies with other scientists, policy makers, and the public. He described major new research initiatives in treatment, methamphetamine abuse, and children and adolescents; and the application of brain imaging to our understanding of addiction and discussed the importance of these findings in developing effective medications. He also spoke of the importance of preventing initial drug use, especially in young people, and discussed the Institute's efforts to improve drug treatment approaches. Dr. Leshner noted that the Institute has made tremendous progress toward developing anti-cocaine medications, and is working with pharmaceutical companies in this important area.

In response to questions from Committee members Dr. Leshner spoke about NIDA's medications development program, including prospects for the development of a vaccine to prevent drug abuse; the efficacy of needle exchange programs in reducing the spread of blood-borne infections and in getting people into treatment; the recent NIH Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana and findings that suggest more research needs to be conducted in certain areas; tobacco, alcohol and drug use among teenagers; drug abuse and HIV/AIDS in minority populations; the effects of drugs of abuse in increasing dopamine levels in the brain; and vulnerability and resiliency to drug abuse.

Bills of Interest

Two bills are pending in the Senate which would double NIH funding. S. Res. 15, introduced by Senator Connie Mack (R-FL), would double NIH funding over five years. S. 124, introduced by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), would double funding over 10 years. Senator Specter (R-PA) is reported to be committed to a 7.5% ($952 million) increase for the NIH this year.

S. 15, Youth Violence, Crime and Drug Abuse Control Act of 1997, was introduced by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) on January 21. Although the primary purpose of the bill is to control youth crime, it contains a number of provisions that would affect, or are of interest to, NIDA. These provisions are outlined below.

Authorizes $100 million for fiscal years 2001 and 2002 for NIDA's Medication Development Program. Funds would be appropriated from the Violent Crime Reduction Trust Fund.

Incorporates provisions from S. 2051, a bill introduced by Senator Biden in the 104th Congress. These provisions would, in essence, consider an anti-addiction medication an orphan drug; provide incentives for small and medium size pharmaceutical companies to develop an anti-addiction medication for cocaine and heroin; and require the Institute of Medicine to establish criteria for what would be considered an acceptable anti-addiction medication for cocaine and heroin.

Other provisions of the bill would reauthorize the ONDCP through 2002 and provide such sums as necessary for the next 13 years (previous legislation would reauthorize the ONDCP for 8 years). It would require the ONDCP Director, in consultation with the Attorney General and DHHS Secretary, to conduct a study of the effects of the California and Arizona Drug Initiatives. Among the 9 areas to be studied are marijuana usage in the 2 States; usage of other controlled substances in those 2 States; and the perceptions of Arizona and California youth to the dangers of using marijuana and other controlled substances.

S. 193, Human Research Subject Protection Act of 1997, was introduced on January 22 by Senator John Glenn (D-OH. Among its provisions are the requirements that all research involving human subjects apply the common rule protections as provided under federal regulations and that any potential regulatory conflict of interest within the DHHS and the NIH be addressed. It would raise the NIH Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR) to the Department level. It also includes provisions relating to classified research.

S. 441, National Trust Fund for Health Research Act, was introduced by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Labor/HHS appropriations subcommittee. The bill would cause to be set aside approximately 1% of all health insurance premiums for a National Fund for Health Research. The fund would be managed by the NIH, and all resources for health research would be over and above those provided to NIH in the annual appropriations process. Two percent of the total fund would be used for extramural construction and renovation of research buildings and facilities and an additional 2% would go to the NIH Director for intramural construction and renovation as well as other activities supported by the Office of the Director. Each NIH Institute would be allocated a percentage based on the amount each Institute received of the total NIH appropriation for a specific fiscal year.

H.R. 309, was introduced on January 7 by Representative Gerald Solomon (R-NY) to prohibit federal departments and agencies from conducting or financing any study or research involving the legalization of drugs.

H.R. 956, Drug Free Communities Act, was introduced by Reps. Portman (R-OH), Hastert (D-MI), Levin (D-MI), and Rangel (D-NY). The bill would amend the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 to establish a program to support and encourage local communities that first demonstrate a comprehensive, long-term commitment to reduce substance abuse among youth. The bill was endorsed by the National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice Subcommittee of House Government Reform and Oversight on March 13, following a hearing. The bill would provide about $10 million of the $16 billion FY 98 federal drug control budget for technical and financial support through grants to community-based anti-drug coalitions that are demonstrating a commitment to fighting drugs.

Hearings of Interest

Biomedical Research Priorities -- May 1: The Senate Labor and Human Resources Subcommittee on Public Health and Safety, chaired by Bill Frist (R-TN), held a hearing on biomedical research priority setting in the NIH.

Informed Consent -- May 8: NIH Director Dr. Harold Varmus has been asked to testify at a hearing before the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Human Resources, which is chaired by Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT). The hearing will focus on issues related to informed consent, including issues related to needle exchange, the mentally challenged, and children. NIDA, NIMH, NICHD, and the NIH Office of Extramural Research have been asked to be present. Relevant to drug abuse, Subcommittee staff have been interested in the Anchorage Alaska Needle Exchange study.

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