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Government Shutdown Hurts NIH Clinical Trials

Update Date: Oct 02, 2013 09:23 AM EDT

On Tuesday, Oct 1, the United States' government shut down for the first time in 17 years. With no budget plan and funding, government agencies and employees are now unsure of their future as thousands of them cleared out their desks. Not only are government employees directly affected, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reminds people that due to the lack of money, adult and children patients must wait before they can enter clinical trials that could save their lives.

The NIH reported that as long as the government is shut down, roughly 200 patients will be turned away from these trials each week. Of the 200 patients per week, around 30 of them are children with one-third of them diagnosed with cancer. NIH trials are usually one of the last options for patients. People who enter these trials do so "when standard medical treatment have failed, and other treatment options are not available. As a result, they have no alternatives," according to the NIH. Fortunately, Burklow reported that the patients already in clinical trials, which amounts to over 1,400 trials, will continue to be treated.

"In fact six new studies would have started this week that we are deferring," NIH spokesman, John Burklow stated according to CNN.

Despite the government shut down, the NIH will still keep 2,564 staff members to handle general patient care. This number represents around 25 percent of the total work force for this agency, which means that around 14,700 employees are on temporary, unpaid leave from their jobs. For the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9,000 employees have been furloughed, which could jeopardize how the agency monitors diseases and deadly outbreaks.

"The vast majority of the CDC is actively in the process of shutting down," the CDC spokeswoman, Barbara Reynolds said according to ABC News. "We've gotten really good at trying to find outbreaks, but our strong network is getting weaker...This is spotty."

Burklow added, "Unfortunately, almost everybody is gone."

The NIH Clinical Center is the world's largest research hospital.

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