MAY/JUNE, Volume 16, Number 1
An Update on NIH Funding for Tobacco
The old CRISP system of describing NIH grants that did not include funding levels has been supplanted by the new (Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORTER) system (http://report.nih.gov/). This system not only has a method to find out who is doing research on what (to see if you are about to be "scooped") but also has oodles of data on how NIH funds are spent. On 2/1/10 this system reported on two of my favorite issues: success rates of grants and funding for tobacco. The report breaks out data by funding mechanism and I will report only R01s as this is most common mechanism. From 2004 to 2008, the success rate for R01s (the percent of applications funded) at NIH as a whole, NCI and NIDA (the two major funders of nicotine and tobacco research) were amazingly constant- between 20-25% (Table 1). Funding for nicotine and tobacco research is in two categories "Smoking and Health" and "Tobacco". Although the report provides overall guidelines for allocating research dollars to health categories, it does not provide exact rules for how nicotine and tobacco research is categorized. For example, it may be that the "substance abuse" category includes tobacco, but this is unclear. Since tobacco seems more inclusive and has a very slightly larger budget I have chosen to illustrate it plus I added some comparators. I included data only from 2007 as from therein coding seems consistent. Less money is being spent on tobacco research than alcohol, obesity or drug abuse. Tobacco research has increased 10% from 2007 to 2011 (projected) which is more than research on alcohol use, but less than drug abuse, obesity, cancer and behavioral science.
Next I divided the R01 research dollars in 2009 by the percent of US deaths attributable to the problem (from JAMA 291:1238-1245, 2004). NIH spent $747 for each death due to smoking, $1,862/obesity death, $5,188/alcohol death and $97,235/drug abuse death. Of course, these numbers do not include other costs of these problems in morbidity, social disruption, lost productivity, years of life saved, etc. Nevertheless, it does appear that, at least in terms of preventing death, tobacco remains underfunded compared to other common causes of death. Finally, for most recent overview of NIH funding and grant successes, I suggest Science 316:356-361.
Some Data on R01 Grants from the Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)