With the elections now behind us, the U.S. Congress needs to address an issue that could delay by years, perhaps even decades, the ability of those with serious diseases to access treatments that will at the very least change their lives for the better, if not save them. The looming “fiscal cliff” – Congress’ current means of tackling a substantial budget deficit – is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will kick in January 1, 2013, if no further legislative action is taken. And it’s a huge mistake.
Medical research is a monumentally expensive endeavor that demands investment from nonprofits like the Foundation Fighting Blindness as well as biotech companies and the federal government. It’s a team effort which, in the past, has resulted in a cure for polio and drugs enabling those diagnosed with AIDS to live full and productive lives. Those are just two of innumerable examples.
Not only would the “fiscal cliff” adversely impact long-term public health; it would allow the United States to fall behind other countries and lose valuable time battling diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy and the many retinal degenerations the Foundation has fought, for more than four decades, to eradicate.
That’s why FFB and more than 50 other health-related nonprofits will join Research!America in its “Save Research” campaign November 12-16. Along with our partners, we will raise public awareness and lobby Congress to change its mind before the January 1st deadline.
To find out how you can aid the Foundation in this effort, check out our “We Need Cures, Not Cuts!” web page, which offers guidance on raising awareness, including through social media. I also encourage you to email President Obama and your local members of Congress directly, which you can do with help from our advocacy tool.
So, what does the “fiscal cliff” mean to those with vision-robbing retinal diseases? Worst-case scenario, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world’s largest biomedical research agency, and the National Eye Institute (NEI), the part of the NIH that funds vision research, would face significant cuts in funding. The NIH stands to lose up to $4 billion, the NEI $55 million, if Congress fails to act by the end of 2012.
Clearly, the stakes are high for vision research. Even if Congress does act, it is likely that a longer-term debt reduction plan will be negotiated next year that could negatively impact biomedical research funding generally.
So we all need to remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that legislators understand the importance of federal investment in research and protect it as a budget priority. The reality is that basic research is not something the private sector can, or will, invest in if public support erodes. As numerous studies have shown, this public investment also leads to the creation of jobs in our biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.
So I encourage you to join us and the Research!America alliance next week in engaging with your federal elected officials to ensure that biomedical research funding remains a priority in the federal budget.