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BREAKING NEWS: Panel recommends forming one NIH institute to replace current NIDA, NIAAA

September 16, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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NIH director will now consider the committee recommendation

An advisory panel that has been weighing the question of whether the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) should be merged has recommended that a new addiction research institute be established under the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB), which since 2006 has been responsible for recommendations on NIH institute structure, issued its recommendation this week as part of a two-day meeting. NIH director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, will now consider the recommendation and determine the next steps in the process.

The idea of combining the federal research institutes for illegal drugs and for alcohol has caused consternation among many addiction professionals, particularly those who believe alcohol research interests would suffer under one entity encompassing all addictions. In the cover story published in the March/April 2010 issue of Addiction Professional, one observer of the process stated, “To NIAAA, it’s a merger. To NIDA, it’s an acquisition.”

Former NIAAA director Enoch Gordis, MD, has been a vocal proponent of maintaining the alcohol research institute’s separate identity, stating that a disease that stands as the fifth leading cause of premature death and disability worldwide merits a unique presence in NIH.

According to a Web posting this month from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), members of the SMRB had been divided on whether to recommend a structural merger that would combine the two institutes or a functional merger that would keep the entities separate but would facilitate interaction.

A CPDD member confirmed that the recommendation to form a new addiction institute was forwarded on a committee vote of 12-to-3. For an analysis of

the potential merger of NIDA and NIAAA, read Addiction Professional's

March cover story.

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