Sequester will hamper disease-prevention efforts, report warns

NEW YORK — Automatic spending cuts stemming from the failure of Congress and the White House to reach a budget deal will likely harm the disease-preventing capabilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a new report.

GlobalData, a market research and analytics firm, said the slashing of the CDC's funding by $450 million, or 8%, due to the sequester would both hamper its ability to prevent infectious diseases through immunization, surveillance and response programs while also failing to accomplish the goal of decreasing federal spending.

"The incidence of chronic infections, such as viral hepatitis, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases also would be expected to increase with the elimination of prevention programs," GlobalData infectious disease analyst Christopher Pace said, adding that disease prevention is one of the most economically viable methods for reducing long-term healthcare costs. "These chronic infections require lifelong treatment that can become expensive."

According to the American Public Health Association, reducing the CDC's ability to prevent diseases means that 30,000 children and 20,000 adults won't be vaccinated against preventable diseases like whooping cough, measles, tetanus and tuberculosis. The drug industry also will be affected, as a report by the Senate Appropriations Committee Majority Staff estimates that about 650,000 fewer people will be tested for HIV, and 12,000 fewer uninsured patients with HIV will receive therapy this year. This, the report found, could push providers toward lower-cost therapies, decreasing demand for more expensive ones.

"The resulting increase in the incidence of preventable foodborne and infectious disease illnesses would increase the demand for therapeutics, such as antiviral and antimicrobial drugs," GlobalData infectious disease analyst Brad Tebbets said. "This market growth would likely cost taxpayers more in the long term, both fiscally and physically, than any of the perceived short-term savings that would be realized as part of the sequestration."