Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The long-term effects of sequestration on medical research

“I worry about the treatments that we’re not going to discover as a result of these cuts. What does this mean downstream; what does it mean in terms of the unmet needs of patients who have diseases with no treatments or cures? The NIH investment is a very powerful driver to this entire enterprise.” 
- Margaret Anderson

Last week, FasterCures Executive Director Margaret Anderson appeared on the BioCentury broadcast with host Steve Usdin to examine the long-term ramifications on medical research and health outcomes if sequestration is not appealed. Watch the whole segment here. Anderson was joined on the Sunday, March 10 segment by Lynn Marquis, Director of the Coalition for the Life Sciences, who talked about the effects that these cuts will have on the scientific workforce.

“We’re going to lose an entire generation of scientists moving forward,” Marquis cautioned. “We’re already not seeing kids pursuing scientific careers because there is no future for them.”

Though optimistic about the possibility to reverse this alarming trajectory, Anderson and Marquis warned that medical science is an area in which the United States cannot afford to fall behind.  They emphasized the outsized impact that investments in research have on both human health and the health of our economy, and noted that it is hard to compare these types of cuts with others.

“This is a powerful investment in the future - for patients, for the economy, for jobs, for industry. I don’t think it’s the same as cutting other programs,” Anderson said. Marquis agreed and offered a bit of hopefulness, “I think we see from both Republican and Democrats…there is huge support for NIH’s biomedical research, primarily because of the human health and economic benefits that we reap from our investment.”

So if Congress understands that medical research is vital to the future of our country, what can be done to ensure we don’t lose our preeminence in the life sciences?

Anderson thinks there’s hope for the NIH to avoid budget-desolation. “I’m an optimist. I think that people need to speak their mind to their members of Congress about how they feel about this investment.” She also spoke about the power of team science and cross-sector collaboration in moving promising research from lab to patient faster.

Just this year, NIH will be forced to reduce its spending by $1.6 billion, significantly slashing the United States’ ability to fund basic scientific research.  Yes, that’s billion with a capital B. Devastating to the medical research community – and more importantly, to the hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from diseases for which there are no cures and few treatment options – does not begin to describe the impact of sequestration.

What Can Be Done?
  • Contact your Members of Congress and let them know that further cuts to the NIH and FDA will set us back on the path to new therapies and cures for disease, jeopardize our economic competiveness, and result in job loss in communities throughout our country. Share with them why a strong investment in medical research is important to you, your family, and your community.
  • Submit your story about why medical research and protecting funding for new research matters to Time=Lives.
  • Attend the Rally for Medical Research on April 8th here in Washington, DC. Even if you can't attend, check out their site for more way to get involved!

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