Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., concerned with effects the ongoing sequestration is having on the field of medical research, visited the downtown Philadelphia branch of the American Cancer Society to both participate in a roundtable discussion with survivors and talk up federal funding for the National Institute of Health.
Casey, flanked by cancer survivors — many of whom told gripping stories of how advanced research saved their lives and that, without research funding, they probably wouldn’t be alive — said enhancing NIH funding is not only crucial to patients, but necessary if America is to retain its position as worldwide leader in medical research.
“This is particularly different time. We’re going to be talking about budgets, sequesters and cutbacks in research or limitations in the advancement of research due to dollars and fiscal concerns, and we have to be cognizant of that,” said Casey, noting that he was “inspired” to be in a room with such fighters and survivors. “But we also have to come here with a degree of solidarity to move forward.
“But I will continue fighting to focus on the issue of medical research and all of its benefits for it, including the benefits and the obvious hope and healing that comes from this research and investment in research,” Casey added. “Pennsylvania gets about $1.4 billion, with about 100 Pennsylvania companies and universities that benefit from the funding that comes from medical research. Unfortunately, we are not in the position where we often are, where we’re simply talking about advocacy for more funding … now we have the added burden and difficult prospect of dealing with sequestration.”
Casey said the effects of the ongoing sequestration resulted in Pennsylvania’s loss of $1.55 billion in FY2013 — or five percent of its overall budget. That, Casey explained, results in 700 less medical research grants.
“We’re losing our edge when it comes to medical research. And it’s not because we don’t have the best doctors, it’s not because we don’t have the best researchers and it’s not because we don’t have the best programs, because we do. We have the best in the world of all of those things,” Casey said. “We’re beginning to lose our edge to other parts of the world simply, and I would say completely, because of funding. So we have to fight back just to maintain level funding, and that’s going to be the fight ahead.
“This is about as an important an issue any of us will confront in our lives, certainly when it comes to public policy.”
According to data provided by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, is 2012, NIH investment supported 402,078 industry-related jobs, while producing $57.774 billion in new economic activity.
California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas are the hardest-hit states, with each losing more than 1,000 NIH research-connected positions due to the sequestration.
“Under sequestration, funding for cancer and other medical research supported by NIH is being cut by more than $1.5 billion, including more than a $250 million reduction in cancer research funding, in FY 2013. And, additional major funding cuts are just around the cover in FY 2014. The fight against cancer will be dealt a major setback by these cuts if the budget sequestration is not turned off,” read, in part, a statement from the Cancer Action Network. “Past congressional support for cancer research has contributed to the overall reduction in cancer incidence and mortality, and an improved quality of life for survivors since the ’90s. Unfortunately, NIH funding has been unable to fully meet scientific needs or keep up with inflation. When accounting for inflation, the NIH budget in FY 2012 was 17 percent smaller than it was in FY 2003 … under sequestration, FY 2013 NIH funding will drop to $29 billion, less than the amount appropriated in FY 2008. When accounting for inflation, this would represent a 23 percent cut in the NIH budget, taking spending nearly to the FY 2001 level.”