As the government shutdown continues, more news is being broken regarding the different sectors of American infrastructure that are being affected. One that is of a major concern to many is the health care industry. Government-run websites have been put on hold, not providing Medicare beneficiaries with necessary information regarding open enrollment – which is quickly approaching on October 15.
Another area affected by this shutdown are ongoing research efforts for life-threatening diseases. As a result, clinical trials conducted at the National Institutes of Health will be put on hold.1 This means that new patients won't be accepted, which is of great concern for individuals across the country.
Those hoping for progress
Heart breaking news reports have been released about young children who are affected by the government shutdown, as they are unable to continue treatment for their health conditions. These families have waited for some time for hopes of finding a cure for their kids, and all hopes seem to be put on hold for the time being.
"If a child or adult patient is in desperate need for treatment, those will be handled in a different manner and will more than likely be seen by physicians or nurses at the NIH Clinical Center," NIH spokesman John Burklow told CNN.2
However, a number of sick patients will be turned away from NIH trials, as 75 percent of the organization's employees are being furloughed. It's important to note, that individuals who are already enrolled in clinical trials will continue to receive treatment.3 Usually, there are hundreds of people in need who are admitted on a weekly basis – ranging in age and suffering from an array of health conditions.
Other areas of health care
Unfortunately, clinical trials aren't the only part of the health care industry that is feeling the effects of the government shut down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are only able to provide minimal support, which affects the amount of investigation that is able to continue. Most notably, the CDC has been forced to stop its annual influenza program due to a lack of funding.4
Another major hit comes to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The shutdown puts a hold on research programs, enforcement activities and routine inspections. Depending on how long 45 percent of the FDA's employees are on furlough, it could have lasting effects on guidance for biologics and biosimilars provided by the agency. And there's no certainty on what other issues may arise a the days pile up.
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1 The White House Blog, "What's affected by a government shutdown?" October 1, 2013
2 CNN Health, "In pain, girl waits for government to open" October 4, 2013
3 CBS Baltimore, "8-year-old cancer patient among those affected by government shutdown" October 3, 2013
4 California Healthline, "U.S. health care industry to feel effects of government shutdown" October 2, 2013