Sequestration Will Be Devastating to the Cure Enterprise

For months, the defense industry has taken the Hill and media outlets by storm detailing the potentially catastrophic impact “sequestration” will have on national security, defense jobs, and our economy. The “S” word stands for automatic spending cuts that will take into effect if Congress does not reach a budget agreement to reduce the deficit by the end of the year.

Margaret Anderson

Margaret Anderson of FasterCures

Members of Congress have expressed concern over the potential cuts to defense programs, and even called for carve outs to protect the Pentagon funding. There has been little mention, however, of the impact sequestration would have on nondefense programs, such as medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or education, which are also subject to the same across-the-board cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

A couple of week ago, we learned a little more about the impact of the sequester’s $1.2 trillion cuts on nondefense programs because of a report released by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The report details the “destructive impacts on the whole array of Federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country – everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security and safe air travel.” The report even indicates that the “economic effects of cuts to nondefense programs could be worse than cuts to Pentagon spending.”

There is chilling evidence of what we can expect to happen to medical research at NIH should sequestration take place:

  • NIH would issue about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers in Fiscal Year 2013, which means 700 fewer opportunities to find medical treatments and cures;
  • The total cut to NIH would be $2.4 billion;
  • The National Cancer Institute alone would be cut by $396 million;
  • The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would lose nearly $45 million; and
  • All 50 states would be expected to suffer from an across-the-board cut.

Sen. Harkin’s report also illustrates how cuts to NIH will result in not only job loss (NIH currently supports approximately 432,000 nationwide), but also a reduction in medical innovation.

At FasterCures, we are deeply concerned by these numbers and urge members of Congress to identify a solution to sequestration before we see a decline in medical research. The ripple effects will be felt far and wide – in every university, every medical research setting, and every household that’s been struck by disease.

We know today that investments in scientific research, particularly in bioscience, not only save and improve lives, but also offer the greatest potential returns and serve as the best economic stimulus any nation can make. The biomedical sector directly and indirectly accounts for some 5 million U.S. jobs (including 1.2 million high-wage private-sector jobs in pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical devices, research and testing). According to a recent Milken Institute report, government funding cuts are among the factors that leave the U.S. vulnerable to growing international competition. European and Asian nations are investing heavily in research as well as improving access to capital for biotech start-ups. These countries are also taking a page from the U.S. playbook as they standardize their regulatory processes and offer better incentives for innovation.
Nations that lead the world in bioscience will be the global leaders of the 21st century. No field has greater potential to improve health, create jobs, and stimulate the economy; and no field provides greater returns on investment.

Important references:

Margaret Anderson is the executive director of FasterCures.

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