Government Shutdown Halts Access for New Patients to NIH Clinical Trials – Costs Could Quickly Rise

By Zachary Kribs

A procedural vote on a bill to fund the government failed in the Senate shortly before midnight on Friday, January 19, causing a partial government shutdown. The federal government, whose 2018 fiscal year began on October 1, was operating on a temporary funding measure which expired without another temporary measure, or regular legislation, in place to fund the government.

Negotiations over funding have been inhibited by a partisan divide on immigration and funding for the Administration’s planned wall on the southern border of the United States. Republicans need at least 11 Democrats to support a funding measure in the Senate to comply with procedural rules. While both parties are hopeful that they can resolve the dispute within the week and pass a funding bill, the debate is contentious and neither party has shown signs of compromise.

Far from esoteric political maneuvering, government shutdowns are costly and have a real-world impact: the 16-day shutdown in 2013 cost the federal government an estimated $24 billion. Shutdowns have a human cost as well. During the 2013 shutdown, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was forced to turn away nearly 200 people per week, including 30 children, from enrolling in new clinical trials, which serve as a last resort for many patients.

Though the shutdown is currently only partial, similar costs could result if a funding compromise is not reached. Outlined in a procedural document released on its website, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will furlough half of its 82,000 employees, and reduce general operations to prolong essential functions. At the NIH, no new participants will be added to clinical trials, and the $27.2 billion grants program will be put on pause, with no action being taken on applications and awards. The NIH will continue to provide care for patients currently enrolled in its clinic and NIH animals.

ASN will continue to advocate for a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement that raises the discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs, and provides a $2 billion increase for the NIH as proposed by the Senate. 

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Zachary Kribs
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A procedural vote on a bill to fund the government failed in the Senate shortly before midnight on Friday, January 19, causing a partial government shutdown. The federal government, whose 2018 fiscal year began on October 1, was operating on a temporary funding measure which expired without another temporary measure, or regular legislation, in place to fund the government.

Negotiations over funding have been inhibited by a partisan divide on immigration and funding for the Administration’s planned wall on the southern border of the United States. Republicans need at least 11 Democrats to support a funding measure in the Senate to comply with procedural rules. While both parties are hopeful that they can resolve the dispute within the week and pass a funding bill, the debate is contentious and neither party has shown signs of compromise.

Far from esoteric political maneuvering, government shutdowns are costly and have a real-world impact: the 16-day shutdown in 2013 cost the federal government an estimated $24 billion. Shutdowns have a human cost as well. During the 2013 shutdown, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was forced to turn away nearly 200 people per week, including 30 children, from enrolling in new clinical trials, which serve as a last resort for many patients.

Though the shutdown is currently only partial, similar costs could result if a funding compromise is not reached. Outlined in a procedural document released on its website, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will furlough half of its 82,000 employees, and reduce general operations to prolong essential functions. At the NIH, no new participants will be added to clinical trials, and the $27.2 billion grants program will be put on pause, with no action being taken on applications and awards. The NIH will continue to provide care for patients currently enrolled in its clinic and NIH animals.

ASN will continue to advocate for a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement that raises the discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs, and provides a $2 billion increase for the NIH as proposed by the Senate. 

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Monday, January 22, 2018