That dirty word, sequester is making it mark, especially medical and cancer research. Hospitals and researchers are feeling the pain directly and hard.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, is cutting an estimated $1.6 billion from its budget through the end of the fiscal year. They have sent a letter to all of their funding recipients that their grants may be reduced or even not renewed next year.
The National Science Foundation is going to be forced to reduce the number of new grants by at least 1,000.
For example, according to Dr. Candace Johnson, the Deputy Director of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Roswell stands to lose $7 to $8 million in federal funding this year alone for both research and the treatment of patients.
Medicare providers, who are supposed to be spared the worse of the sequester by having their cuts limited to 2 percent are also struggling. Bacause of how Medicare will now pay for cancer drugs, there have been a number of oncologists who are claiming that they will have to send their patients to be hospitalized for treatment instead of receiving their treatments as outpatients. This will clearly end up costing everyone including society more money, not saving money.
If cancer research labs are closed, and many will be, their research will end forever. In most cases it will be impossible to just pick up the work where it left off. Researchers will find other things to do and new researchers will not be trained to replace the older, retiring researchers. Lab equipment will be lost, animals for studies will die and human subjects will move on and not return to the trials in which they were participating.
The sequester is not beautiful. It will halt our progress in conquering cancer and through us back for many years. More of us will suffer and more of us will die, but we will save some money, so don’t despair.
Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.