Congressman Ed Markey asks HHS for details on automatic cuts to medical research funding

WASHINGTON—Congressman Edward J. Markey today asked the Department of Health and Human Services to outline in detail how automatic budget cuts resulting from last summer’s debt ceiling deal will impact medical research and development, access to new medical treatments, and other health programs.

With only six months to go until across the board cuts are scheduled to be applied to defense and domestic programs unless Congress acts, Markey warned in a letter to the department that the 7.8 percent cut facing federal agencies dedicated to research, health, and community development will be “draconian and devastating for millions of Americans.”

“These deep reductions could stop vital, life-saving research in its tracks,” Markey wrote. “New drugs and therapies could go undiscovered. High-paying, quality jobs at universities and labs nationwide could be lost. US leadership in biomedical research will no longer be assured, as nations like China and India double down on their investments in research and development while our country scales back.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Massachusetts stands to lose more than $680 million in federal research funding in 2013, or nearly 9 percent of the approximately $7.7 billion it is now estimated to receive, according to a Globe analysis last November based on available data.

Nationally, the cuts translate into a $3.6 billion loss for medical research in 2013 alone, said Markey, citing a report by Research!America. The National Institutes of Health stands to lose $2.4 billion, potentially halting research on Alzheimer’s, autism, childhood leukemia, and cerebral palsy in its tracks, he said.

“Cutting off research funding now would be like pulling the plug on the space exploration budget, just days before a scheduled take-off to the moon,” wrote Markey, senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Boston and Cambridge, with one of the densest concentrations of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the country, is the epicenter for medical research. And Boston is home to the five independent hospitals receiving the most funds from the National Institutes of Health in the nation.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration faces the prospect of a $200 million budget cut. And financial assistance that helps low-income families heat their homes during the winter could be further slashed. Also at risk: community grants that help employ, educate and house low-income and disabled Americans, and student loans and vocational rehabilitation funding.

Markey asked the department to explain the impacts of the mandatory cuts by the end of the month.