Shutdown dims lights at FDA, NIH and CDC

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Shutdown dims lights at FDA, NIH and CDC
Shutdown dims lights at FDA, NIH and CDC

The government shutdown that went into effect at midnight put 800,000 government employees out of work for the duration. The fallout includes 40,513 Health and Human Services employees, or 52% of the department's staff, while 48% will continue to come in and be paid.

At the FDA, this means 45% of the agency's staff has been sent home. Assistant commissioner of media affairs Steven Immergut emailed MM&M that of the 55% of staff who are allowed to work, 74% of them are funded by user fees. The shutdown means the FDA will not be able to perform tasks including routine inspections, some compliance activities, and “the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.”

Of the media affairs staff, Immergut was the only one of three media affairs specialists allowed to show. Colleagues Heidi Rebello and Erica Jefferson's out-of-office messages noted, “I am out of the office on furlough and cannot respond to your email.”

The Street's Adam Feuerstein noted last week that the shutdown could mean Amarin (vascepta), Johnson & Johnson (simeprevir) and Gilead (sofosbuvir) see their advisory review committee days evaporate.

Also as part of the shutdown, the National Institutes of Health will not review grant applications or begin new treatment protocols, and will cease other functions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also scaling back, and will not be able to provide state and local support for infectious disease surveillance or the annual seasonal influenza programs, in addition to stopping other activities.

Although the FDA's homepage did not note the shutdown, making it appear like a normal day, the NIH's website features a big red box noting, “due to the lapse in government funding, the information on this web site may not be up to date, transactions submitted via the web site may not be processed,” and forwarding users to USA.gov. This second site's featured news included a note that the government had shut down and provided an 800 number to call for questions, which was followed by a second story on auto-rotate encouraging readers to sign up for health exchanges. These exchanges, part of healthcare legislation that put the government in deep freeze, began accepting members today. Money had already been allocated to the exchanges, insulating them from the standoff.

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