Posts Tagged ‘ government shutdown ’

Shutdown Blocking Kids’ Cancer Clinical Trial Treatments

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Each week of the government shutdown, around 30 children will be prevented from receiving treatment for cancer and other illnesses through clinical trials, the National Institutes of Health announced this week.  More from ABC News:

John Burklow, a spokesman for the National Institutes of Health, estimated that 200 patients would experience these delays each week of the shutdown. Since 15 percent of these patients are typically children, and 33 percent of these children have cancer, that means the patients facing delays would include about 30 children per week, 10 of whom have cancer, he said.

Federal health programs are down thousands of employees, which hampers clinical trials and disease outbreak surveillance.

The NIH, for example, has had to furlough 14,700 employees – or 75 percent of its staff – as a result of the shutdown, Burklow told ABCNews.com. He expressed surprise  that calls were even getting through,  because he said his phone system had gone down this morning.

“Unfortunately, almost everybody is gone,” he said of his office. His staff in the media office has shrunk from 38 to one.

More than 1,400 ongoing clinical trials will continue at the NIH Clinical Center, which is the largest research hospital in the world, but it won’t be able to enroll any new patients in these trials or start any new trials during the shutdown, Burklow said.

“There are four new protocols [clinical trials] ready to start next week, and they won’t be starting during the shutdown if we’re still shut down,” he said.

As a result of the shutdown, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has furloughed 9,000 employees, rendering it unable to track multi-state disease outbreaks, said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds. These currently include the disease stemming from the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which killed a 4-year-old in Louisiana a few weeks ago, and the stomach bug cyclospora, which has sickened 643 people in 25 states since June.

“The vast majority of the CDC is actively in the process of shutting down,” she said. “We’ve gotten really good at trying to find outbreaks, but our strong network is getting weaker. … This is spotty.”

The seasonal flu program will also be shut down, which could affect the CDC’s ability to warn populations most at risk for becoming sick and its ability to create next year’s flu shot, Reynolds said.

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Government Nutrition Program for Mothers, Children Threatened by Shutdown

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

A government program that provides millions of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children with money and education to help them eat nutritious foods is on the list of agencies that will lose funding as part of the partial government shutdown.  The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides families with children under 5 nutritious meals in an effort to stave off learning disabilities and other health effects of premature birth and other complications. More on the shutdown’s effects on the program from CNN Money:

“No additional federal funds would be available,” to continue the program in the event of a shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs WIC, said on its website. “States may have some funds available … to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period.”

There are just under nine million women and children on the program, according to USDA. The average monthly benefit is about $45.

That often comes on top of about $135 a month in food stamp benefits. WIC benefits mandate the money can only be spent on an approved list of healthy foods.

Suspending the program is a terrible idea, said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, head of the National WIC Association, which represents the regional offices that administer the programs.

While a suspension would only be temporary, it would send the wrong message to mothers, and perhaps convincing some that it’s not worth signing up for, he said.

Greenaway said the program actually saves taxpayers money.

It costs $20,000 per pound to bring a premature child up to normal weight, he said. All told, for every $1 spent the program saves $4.21 in medical costs, he said.

Image: Mother feeding baby, via Shutterstock

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