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NIH offers more details on recommendation for consolidated addiction research institute

September 21, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A reorganization would occur at least six months after Congress is notified

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) spokesman has confirmed to Addiction Professional that last week’s advisory panel recommendation to combine NIH’s two addiction research institutes into one comprehensive entity would move some existing addiction research subjects into the combined institute while removing any non-addiction areas from its control.

The spokesman added that if NIH director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) go along with the recommendation to replace the current National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Congress would be notified and the actual reorganization would take place no sooner than six months after the notification.

Last week, the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) voted 12-3 in favor of creating a new institute that would integrate the entire addiction research portfolio under NIH. This would mean that not only would all current NIDA and NIAAA research initiatives fall under one entity, other addiction research areas also would be moved into the new institute, including tobacco addiction research that is now housed at the National Cancer Institute.

In addition, areas currently under NIDA and NIAAA that are not addiction-specific would be relocated to other NIH institutes. For example, research on fetal alcohol syndrome could move from its present location at NIAAA to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The SMRB last week accepted the recommendation of a substance use working group that concluded that the present NIDA-NIAAA structure “is not ideal for fulfilling the NIH mission and optimizing research into substance use, abuse, and addiction,” the NIH spokesman stated. The working group told the full board that integration of the addiction research portfolio could in theory be established either by creating a new institute or by establishing a trans-NIH initiative on addiction research. The SMRB responded by recommending creation of a new institute.

That recommendation now goes to NIH director Collins and would then go to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. If both approve the reorganization, Congress will be notified of the action and the steps needed to implement it. Absent any intervening action by Congress, then, the reorganization would take effect at least 180 days after the congressional notification.

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