The shutdown is already thelongest on record, and health groups warn of possible long-termconsequences to health and well-being if it is not terminated.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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It's not just the TSA, DHS, federal and contract workers and civiliansdependent on the services provided by these organizations who arelooking for a speedy end to the government shutdown. Now hospitals, health caregroups and drugmakers are all piling on.

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Modern Healthcare reports that “hundreds of groups,” fromhospitals to major health care industry organizations, have sentletters to the White House and to the president pushing for an endto the government shutdown, lest it affect the health of U.S.citizens.

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Related: Shutdown woes will hit retirement for governmentemployees

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Among the many agencies shuttered by lack of funds are the U.S.Food and Drug Administration, the Indian Health Service (IHS) andthe EPA, as well as other major agencies. The shutdown is alreadythe longest on record, and health groups warn of possible long-termconsequences to health and well-being if it is not terminated.

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In their letter, the groups wrote, “We fear a prolonged shutdownwill cause needless suffering and have long-lasting healthconsequences. Basic health protections could be endangered by anongoing shutdown.”

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Food inspections aren't being done, except for certain high-riskfoods—by inspectors called back from furloughs but still not beingpaid. The groups pointed out that 80 percent of the country's foodsupply is overseen by the FDA, which carries out those inspectionsto try to ward off foodborne illnesses.

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The letter, according to Modern Healthcare, also sounds thealarm about lapses in programs funded through the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture, such as the Supplemental Nutrition AssistanceProgram and the nutritional program for Women, Infants andChildren. It also cautions the White House about the plight of andpotential health consequences for the 800,000 furloughed andworking-without-pay federal workers, writing, “Residents simplycannot maintain their health without stable housing, food andmedical care.”

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And they're not the only ones rooting for restoration of theFDA; drugmakers who are stymied by the shutdown in trying to getnew generic drugs approved are also in limbo, along with thehospitals waiting for those drugs. In another report, ModernHealthcare said that although generic-drug applications submittedbefore the partial government shutdown are still beingapproved—they're financed by fees paid by drugmakers—no newapplications are being accepted at present because the agency can'tcollect any user fees.

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“An unintended consequence of the government shutdown is the FDAwill not be able to bring generic drugs to market as quickly as itotherwise might,” Peter Pitts, a former FDA official and thepresident of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, isquoted saying. Pitts added, “Nobody thinks that is a good idea,except perhaps brand-name drugs that get an unexpected windfall ofextra (market) exclusivity.”

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Expensive biologic drugs are keeping prices high, with moreaffordable biosimilars stalled awaiting FDA approvals. There toothe inability to collect new fees for new applications is holdingup the process that could help lower drug prices—something that theFDA had made a priority, along with approving new generics andincreasing competition in an effort to lower generic prices.

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Even when the shutdown ends, there is likely to be a flood ofnew applications for drug approvals—and that backlog won't becleared overnight.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.