Appropriations Hearing Focuses on Investments to Advance Disease Treatment, Prevention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today questioned leading health researchers on new approaches for treating and preventing type 2 diabetes, a critical illness affecting a large segment of Mississippi’s population.

Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today testified at a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing titled, “NIH: Investing in a Healthier Future.” While looking at medical advances, the hearing also entailed discussions of how the Senate FY2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill (S.1695) would positively affect NIH research activities.

“Discovering new approaches to diabetes prevention and treatment is important in terms of improving the health and well-being of Mississippians and controlling health care costs. We have one of the highest rates of this disease in the nation, and it is critical that we try to stop the rapid growth of type 2 diabetes in our state,” said Cochran, who is a senior member of the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that Mississippi ranked second in the nation in 2012 for overall diabetes prevalence, with more than 276,000 adult Mississippians with type 2 diabetes. Nationally, about 29 million American have type 2 diabetes, and an estimated 86 million people are considered pre-diabetic.

Asked by Cochran what can be done in dealing with diabetes “hot spots” like Mississippi, Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), testified that a trial is underway to determine more effective drug combinations for managing the disease, for which there is not yet a cure.

“The second thing for those people who are sort of underneath the iceberg, the 86 million Americans who have a possibility of going on to develop diabetes, we have tried to translate a very effective diabetes prevention program-to scale this up in a way to offer this lifestyle, which was quite effective in these patients, to prevent them or delay them from becoming a diabetic. These will have an important financial role in the future in terms of cutting costs,” Rodgers said.

The committee-passed FY2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill recommends $1.82 billion for NIDDK, a $76 million increase over FY2015 funding. Regarding diabetes, the bill encourages the Institute to “commit resources commensurate with the severity and escalating costs of the epidemic to future diabetes research that will build upon past successes, improve prevention and treatment, and bring the Nation closer to a cure.”

The Senate bill provides $32 billion for NIH in FY2016, a $2.0 billion increase that represents the largest increase in funding within an annual appropriations bill for NIH overall since 2003. This appropriations bill, like all 12 approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee this summer, faces a Democratic filibuster.