Now, with research funding at an all time low, the odds of continued development are not in our favor. The sequester is essentially slowly killing me and
millions of patients still looking for cures.
This week my doctor, a lung disease specialist at Columbia University, marched on Washington in the Rally for Medical Research to protest the
sequester-induced 5 percent budget cut to the NIH. She and busloads of scientists flooded the mall in opposition to the funding cuts to critical biomedical
research that could potentially cure disease. Due to the sequester, Columbia University Medical Center is slated to lose 19 million research dollars for
the fiscal year 2013; the losses will be even greater in 2014.
My doctor's research grant, which in any other fiscal year would have been awarded, is now in jeopardy of not being funded. She is poised to begin a trial
that could radically alter the treatment of LAM, having identified a molecular pathway through research on mice that kills the cells that spur destructive
cyst growth. While the number of people affected by LAM makes the trials necessarily too small to qualify for NIH funding directly, even the smaller,
potentially transformative trials like this one will have increasing difficulty receiving funding because nongovernmental income sources will now be
besieged by all manner of researchers whose NIH grants have taken hits.
On March 1, when the sequester was enacted, NIH (the world's largest supporter of biomedical research) lost 5.3 percent of its 2013 budget, or $1.6 billion
out of $31 billion. In 2014 the NIH will lose 8.2 percent -- and more will be sliced from the budget annually in years going forward. Medical research pays
great dividends both in terms of jobs created and economic growth in the pharmaceutical industry. According to the federal government, every $1 of NIH
funding generates $2.20 in economic growth.
But, cures aside -- and they are paramount -- the reduction of health care costs down the road will be the greatest gift to society from medical research.
According to OECD Health Data from 2012, each year the U.S. spends about $445 per person on medical research versus $8,233 per capita on health care costs.
The sequestration cuts research by $22 per patient while, due to the lack of advances in both clinical and basic research, health care costs will continue
The Columbia delegation met with staffers for New York State representatives Nita Lowey and Charles Rangel, who acknowledged that efforts to end
sequestration are at an impasse because of the deeply partisan nature of Washington. The staffers encouraged the scientists in the room to -- instead of
pursuing lifesaving research -- spend their time mobilizing their sick patients to reach out to their own representatives and push NIH funding increases.
Patient advocacy is essential, but are we not better served if our researchers stick to research, our doctors to doctoring, and our legislators to