A thirty year old young woman suffering from a very aggressive case of cancer is furious over the cancellation of her long anticipated clinical trial, according to CNN, 10/2/13. The Auburn, California patient, Michele Langbehn, who has undergone a spinal fusion, two radiation cycles and several surgeries to remove tumors, was hopeful that the clinical trials using the new drug Cabozantinib would be just the right answer for her to defeat her unrelenting cancer. Langbehn already had been approved for an evaluation for the clinical trial and had sent her medical records to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for review, when the clinical trials were canceled due to the government shutdown.
Patients such as Langbenh do not have the luxury of time and are facing grave consequences for unnecessary delays in their medical treatment. Clinical trials become necessary when conventional methods of fighting disease have been unsuccessful. The results of such trials are monitored closely by the National Institutes of Health for eventual approval of experimental drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for widespread use. Participants in clinical trials are advised of the potential risks of the drugs that they are taking. However, the participants are willing to take the risks because of the promising aspects of such drugs.
Roughly 200 new patients are admitted to the clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health Center in Bethesda, Maryland every week. However, these patients now are being advised that their clinical trials will have to wait until the government shutdown ends, according to NIH spokesman, John Burklow.
The NIH website has posted this message regarding the curtailment of admission of new patients for clinical trials:
Due to the lapse in government funding ... transactions submitted via the web site may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted."
It is ironic when considering the fact that the only services that were supposed to have been curtailed during the shutdown, as promised by Congress, were "non-essential" services that do not involve the protection of "life or property;" yet the shutdown is posing a direct threat to the lives of all of these patients, including Langbehn.
Try telling Langbehn that her life is non-essential or that her life is not what Congress was referring to when promising to protect "life and property" throughout the shutdown. The entire political equation stops on a dime when you put a face and name to it. And Langbehn and hundreds of other patients like her are not going to allow Congress to turn its face away as it continues to deliberate the fate of their lives in its lofty galleries.