Aids Funds Misused, Study Claims Millions of Research Dollars Go to Programs Not Dealing with HIV

Article excerpt

A major study of AIDS research funding has found that a large proportion of the $1.3 billion spent by the National Institutes of Health in 1994 went to programs that have little or nothing to do with AIDS.

The report, released Thursday, calls for major changes in the way the National Institutes of Health conducts research, drug trials and vaccine development for the federal AIDS research program, which has risen to $1.4 billion a year.

The report is based on more than a year of fact-gathering by a committee of about 100 scientists, headed by Dr. Arnold Levine of Princeton University, and including two Nobel laureates and many members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Among the findings and recommendations in the report:

National Institutes of Health research programs discourage recruitment of young scientists and tend to deflect original and innovative research ideas. The report calls for doubling funds for unsolicited research proposals, a move that would bring fresh ideas.

Efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine, which should be among the highest priorities, have been underfunded and unsuccessful. The committee called for a crash program under a new committee controlled by nongovernment scientists.

Some AIDS research funds have been spent on studies of cancer, heart disease, veterinary medicine and dentistry and other projects having little or nothing to do with AIDS.

Some of the projects supported by AIDS money have been redundant and wasteful, and some of the most promising proposals are not funded because evaluators lack expertise.

Several departments at the National Institutes of Health now sponsor more than a dozen clinical trials of AIDS-virus drugs and therapies, suggesting that some of the money was spent to keep the individual agencies in business.

Not enough has been spent on research on the human immune system and too much on laboratory animals that don't get AIDS.

Sixteen AIDS research projects at major universities have been funded by the National Institutes of Health at half the level they deserve. …

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