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NIH director: Sequester may cost us a 'cancer cure'

CDC warns that outbreaks may not be detected as a result of sequestration

Topics: Oncology, Service Lines, Finance, Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement, Appropriateness

September 20, 2013

Speaking at the 2013 National Health Research Forum this month, NIH Director Francis Collins put the budget sequester's impact on medical research into plain speech: It may have cost the world a cancer cure.

How the sequester affected medical research

In March, President Obama signed an order to initiate $85 billion in sequestration cuts for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30. The mandated cuts represent the first installment of nearly $1 trillion in across-the-board reductions, including a 2% reduction to Medicare reimbursement rates.

According to Collins, NIH lost $1.7 billion in federal funding to date from sequestration, and it stands to lose another $600 million on Oct. 1."People are demoralized," Collins said at the forum, adding that the now-unfunded research projects "could have been the next cure for cancer or the next Nobel Prize. But we'll never know."

CDC, FDA weigh in on sequester cuts

CDC Director Thomas Frieden voiced similar concerns, citing thousands of federal, state, and local health care jobs that have been or will be cut because of ongoing budgetary restraints. The effect on infectious disease outbreaks could be substantial, he says. "Outbreaks won't be detected, vaccines won't happen," he said, adding that there "will be costs in terms of human suffering."

Meanwhile, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg added that sequestration has affected the agency's ability to retain the "very best people" to oversee the drug and device review process.

"Investment in research is key," she says, adding that "we have to look at economic policies, we have to look at reimbursement policies, and we have to look at regulatory policies and pathways. Advancing innovation and protecting the patients that use our healthcare system go hand and hand" (Fiore, Medscape Medical News, 9/18).

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