Congress must devote more money to find a cure for...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 17, 1999

Congress must devote more money to find a cure for diabetes

Congressional leaders have proposed a $1.5 to $2 billion increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Congress should insist that NIH allocate much of that money to finding a cure for diabetes.

At Congress' request, the NIH commissioned the Diabetes Research Working Group (DRWG) to investigate diabetes research at NIH. The DRWG concluded that, at about $300 million a year, NIH's funding to cure diabetes is "trivial" and recommended that NIH increase funding for diabetes research to $1 billion per year.

So far, NIH has refused to follow this recommendation of its own committee, saying current funding levels are adequate.

Today more Americans suffer from diabetes (16 million) than from AIDS and breast cancer combined. Diabetes kills ten times more Americans per year than AIDS and we spend $91 billion a year treating diabetes, including $28.6 billion from Medicare, or 27 percent of Medicare's total budget.

Yet NIH allocates about 13 percent of its medical research budget to AIDS, 5 percent to breast cancer and just 2.5 percent to diabetes. On a per patient basis, NIH spends 100 times more researching a cure for AIDS than for diabetes .

The cost/benefit analysis is clear. We must spend more to find a cure and wipe out diabetes.

We can recoup the dollars invested in research from money that previously was lost paying for treatment. It doesn't take long to recoup $1 billion a year, when the first year payback would be $91 billion.

Maybe politicians will get the point if they realize that roughly half the 16 million Americans with diabetes are of voting age.

Peter A. Winer

Baltimore

An encouraging beginning of reform in managed care

I am hopeful that the decision by UnitedHealth Group to give doctors the final say on health care decisions will start a chain reaction within the HMO and insurance community for reform ("HMO to give doctors final say," Nov. 9).

In trying to keep health care and insurance costs down, HMOs and insurance companies delay, deny and refuse to cover care for patients. This is very frustrating for physicians, nurses and other health care workers, who are trying to provide care for our patients.

Today hospital stays are decreasing for medical and surgical patients, and patients are discharged much more quickly than ever before. Some of my patients who have had open-heart surgery are discharged in three or four days.

We use home-care nurses to provide for patients at home, but that isn't always covered by many HMO's or insurance companies. Consequently, we see an incredible number of re-admissions, especially among elderly patients.

Managed care was intended to protect consumers from unnecessary and ineffective care and treatments. But undertreatment, denial and rejection of care and claims are a crime against patients, their families and consumers.

I hope we will see more companies following UnitedHealth's example.

Karen Cruz Hanifen, R.N.

Towson

'Peanuts' salute to veterans more moving than Clinton's

President Clinton places a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier: a staged, public relations event -- meaningless.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz has Snoopy toast, with C-rations, Ernie Pyle: a message from the heart, to the point -- poignant ("Peanuts," Nov. 11).

Thanks, Charles Schulz.

Larry Johnston

Hereford

KAL's cartoon miscast generals as war-mongers

As a son of a World War I veteran and a veteran myself of World War II and Korea, I must comment on KAL's Nov. 9 cartoon. Almost on the eve of Veterans Day, this cartoon was in extremely poor taste.

KAL's cartoon suggests the military brass wants nothing but war. But the truth is far from that proposition. Ask Gen. Colin Powell or Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, or Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of the Viet Cong, their views of war.

If we accept KAL's cartoon, which characterizes our high command as war-mongering, fat generals, as correct, we are indeed in bad shape.

If, on the other hand, they are espousing a strong defense and not a repeat of unpreparedness, more power to them.

Pat O'Connor

Towson

If Arafat controls militants, peace could be at hand

After a half-century of strife between Arabs and Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is prepared to travel the last mile for peace, ceding additional conquered land to the Palestinians and even using military force to displace Jewish settlers from their West Bank homes ("Israel fulfills key parts of deal with Palestinians," Nov. 11).

But the big question remains: Does Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have the will and the power to end the sporadic waves of violence by Arab terrorist groups, who oppose any peace agreement and seek to annihilate the Jewish state?

If Mr. Arafat is able to control Israel's enemies who live within his borders, it would usher in an era of peaceful co-existence and pave the way for improved living conditions for Arabs and Jews.

And the world would be a much safer place.

Albert E. Denny

Baltimore

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