Mrs. Clinton supports basic biomedical research

February 18, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

BETHESDA -- Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged yesterday to increase White House support for basic biomedical research, saying that the work of medical scientists goes hand in hand with health care reform.

The benefits of medical research could be spread to a greater number of Americans through reforms in the health care system, Mrs. Clinton said in a speech to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

"Health security not only means guaranteeing comprehensive benefits throughout a person's life; it also means emphasizing early diagnosis and prevention of diseases," she said.

In a slap at the past two Republican administrations, the first lady complained that biomedical research had been "neglected and underfunded and even unappreciated" for much of the past decade. Those conditions will be rectified by passage of President Clinton's 1995 budget and the administration's health care reform plan, she predicted.

"The work of scientists is more important than ever," she added. Despite an overall freeze on most domestic spending, President Clinton's 1995 budget has proposed a 4.7 percent funding increase for the National Institutes of Health, or $517 million, "most of it for basic research," she said.

Before her speech, Mrs. Clinton met with NIH's leading scientists, who briefed her on their various programs, and met with several AIDS patients, including three children.

She also met with Ashanti DeSilva, a 7-year-old Ohio girl, who three years ago was one of the first patients in the world to receive pioneering gene therapy -- a treatment that essentially repairs a defective gene -- to cure a rare immune disorder called Inherited Severe Immune Deficiency Disease.

"Before her treatment, her life was one of confinement and fear," Mrs. Clinton said in her speech. "Today she is living a full life."

At the White House yesterday, President Clinton continued his efforts to build support among the elderly for his health reform proposals by meeting with leaders of senior citizens organizations.

The brunch session, following his speech Wednesday to 2,000 elderly citizens in New Jersey, was part of a White House strategy to gain the backing of the nation's influential senior citizens lobby.

Officials from a dozen groups left the meeting promising to work in behalf of the Clinton health reform plan, although the White House failed to get the endorsement of the powerful American Association of Retired Persons.

Horace Deets, AARP's executive director, said the Clinton proposals had the greatest chance of passage and addressed two of his group's minimum demands: prescription drug coverage and expanded long-term care.

But Mr. Deets said AARP's membership needed more education about the Clinton proposals before it could make any recommendation.

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