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Govt shutdown hampers treatment for cancer patients, including children

Published time: October 02, 2013 00:39
Edited time: October 02, 2013 01:34
(FILES) US President Barack Obama  looks through a microscope at brain cells with Dr Marston Linehan (C) as he tours the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

(FILES) US President Barack Obama looks through a microscope at brain cells with Dr Marston Linehan (C) as he tours the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

Patients seeking to enroll for treatment in research studies at the National Institutes of Health’s Maryland hospital are out of luck due to the government shutdown.

For every week the shutdown lasts, the agency’s research-only hospital will turn away approximately 200 patients - 30 of them children - who often seek participation in experimental studies after more traditional methods have failed, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins told AP.

Though prospective NIH patients are usually eligible for studies at other hospitals around the country, "this is the place where people have wanted to come when all else has failed," Collins said. "It's heartbreaking."

A child with a life-threatening illness is likely the only exception, Collins said, and existing patients will continue to receive care at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda.

In addition, he said that all experimental studies are on hold as long as Congress cannot settle on a budget deal.

"If you expected new treatments for cancer or a new universal influenza vaccine or discovering the causes of autism were going to move forward at the maximum it could, that will not be the case," Collins said. "This is a profoundly discouraging day."

For the 2013 fiscal year that ended Monday, the NIH was only able to fund around 16 percent of the research grant applications it received. A decade ago, one in three of such applications were funded by the NIH, which lost $1.5 billion of its $31 billion budget due to sequester spending cuts earlier this year.

The NIH is scheduled to lose $600 million more from a second round of cuts, meaning that further projects that will not be funded, Collins said.

Beyond the NIH, a continuing government shutdown will also impact operations at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to a memo put out by the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC will be “unable to support the annual seasonal influenza program, outbreak detection and linking across state boundaries using genetic and molecular analysis, continuous updating of disease treatment and prevention recommendations” as well as curtail “support to state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance.”

Comments (9)


NiKKi (Squid) 02.10.2013 16:59

Only the research study dept is closed. There are other options for cancer treatment.


Geoff King 02.10.2013 14:02

DinkumThinkum 02.10.2013 13:54

The government shut down? Hadn't noticed. Local police, fire, emergency rooms, schools, roads, and everything still functioning just fine. Who needs the federal government? Everything would be handled better locally.


Exactly. Education, welfare, and basically everything the government now controls worked far better when it was handled on a local level.


nipperthecat 02.10.2013 13:56

How about you cover the poverty and crime in Russia? I can look out my window and see what is happening here. It is not so bad. Your country is a train wreck and all RT can talk about are problems in the US. How about a story on Russian orphanages... About unwanted children forced to live in squalor? About men now living to 60 if the are lucky. You wish you had Americas problems.

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