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Government shutdown puts clinical trials on hold

October 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The ongoing government shutdown is much more than political theater: The standoff is also putting some critical medical research on hold.

Dr. Yves DeClerck is a prominent researcher and pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He says for his patients and thousands of others across the country, the government shutdown could be a life-or-death situation.

"The patients who are affected with very severe disease and could be eligible for new experimental treatment that only the government, the National Institutes of Health, have available. These are so-called clinical trials," said DeClerk.

The National Institutes of Health, whose activities have been put on hold while politicians duke it out, has a clinical center that treats 10,000 patients a year, including children with cancer.

It is also largely responsible for grants and approval that allow researchers like Dr. DeClerck to come up with new clinical trials.

"It could be that 200 patients every week would be denied access to the clinical trials, and access to drugs that may be the only chance they have," said DeClerck.

The shutdown is also already taking its toll on thousands of new medical grant applications, two cycles of research proposals that will be left in limbo.

"So I think we're going to see for the next weeks no new clinical trial going on, and I think that's going to affect, again, the lives of people who are suffering the most," said DeClerck.

Meanwhile, in downtown Los Angeles, federal workers made their voices heard.

"It's really hurting them, psychologically, financially, emotionally," said Ralph Serrano, union steward of Homeland Security Local 505.

"We're doing our job and working hard every day like we normally do, but we're concerned about making sure our rent is paid and our families are fed," said ICE Local 505 Union President Lela Hill.

So while so many people are frustrated with the government right now, they're feeling more pain without it.


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