NEW YORK, NY – December 10. Thanks to year-long advocacy by the Lupus Research Institute (LRI) Coalition and lupus patients nationwide, the year-end Fiscal 2015 “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act” released last night in Congress contains several programs to advance lupus research and professional education. The bill is set to be voted on by the House of Representatives Thursday, December 11 and then move to the Senate.
If enacted, an additional $2 million is allocated to further the Lupus Initiative, the highly successful national healthcare provider education program conceived by the LRI in collaboration with the federal government. That appropriation will bring cumulative support over the past five years to $8.6 million to meet the critical need for better lupus education for healthcare professionals, particularly among those working with underserved populations. Managed by the American College of Rheumatology, the Lupus Initiative is a collaborative program of the Office of Minority Health, Office of Women’s Health and the U.S. Surgeon General to improve diagnosis and reduce health disparities.
“The Lupus Initiative has made significant headway in one year, but there’s more work ahead to ensure that every healthcare professional considers lupus when faced with a patient describing vague symptoms like severe fatigue and joint pain,” noted LRI CEO Margaret Dowd. “Our LRI Coalition of patient advocates thanks Congress for recognizing the need for additional funds to expand our reach among medical students and front-line providers most likely to encounter undiagnosed cases of lupus.”
Advancing Research for Better Treatment
The bill also acknowledges the vital importance of supporting the nation’s biomedical research program, allotting $30.084 billion to the National Institutes of Health budget – an approximately $150 million increase over 2014. The bill also directs NIH to prepare an update on lupus research and what is planned for the coming year. Additionally, with a total allocation of $247.5 million for the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, the new bill also answers the call LRI advocates sounded this year for continued inclusion of lupus as one of the diseases eligible for funding.
“Congress heard and responded to requests from the LRI and many organizations to bolster our nation’s investment in biomedical research,” noted Ms. Dowd. “We are very proud of what all the visits, letters and emails to federal legislators from lupus patients throughout the country have accomplished.”