Senator Specter Breaks Promise to Mesothelioma Patient and Research Community
Santa Barbara, CA
June 29, 2005
The mesothelioma research community today expressed great disappointment in Senator Arlen Specter's reluctance to provide additional funding for mesothelioma research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Mesothelioma patients and individuals exposed to asbestos count on research dollars to provide hope for better treatments and survival. Mesothelioma patients and asbestos-exposed citizens need advocates in government. This development is disappointing for the mesothelioma research community," said Dr. Harvey Pass, the chairman of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation's Science Advisory Board.
As Senator Specter, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, crafted final language for the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Act (S. 852) last month he included an amendment establishing a mesothelioma research and treatment program. The amendment called for Congress to appropriate $12 million annually to NIH to fund this program. In a public/private partnership, the amendment also called for a contribution from industry through the settlement trust fund in the amount of $17 million annually.
"In order to detect this disease earlier as well as formulate novel strategies, we must use every means necessary to increase our research portfolio for mesothelioma," Dr. Pass elaborated. Currently, NIH funds only $2.8 million in mesothelioma research annually, which is less than 1/10 of 1% of its annual budget. Mesothelioma claims more than 4,000 lives a year. Approximately 30% of victims are U.S. veterans exposed to asbestos while in service to this country.
As head of the appropriations subcommittee that funds biomedical research at NIH, Senator Specter is in the unique position to make this funding a reality. When the Senate returns from Fourth of July recess, it is expected to take up the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. While the patient and research community eagerly wait for funding, Senator Specter has indicated that he will not include additional funding for FY 2006 as outlined in the Asbestos Injury Act.
"Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer. Patients have a life expectancy of between 6 and 18 months on average. Each appropriations cycle that goes by without additional funding costs lives. On behalf of clinicians and scientists who care for these victims every day, I urge Senator Specter to consider all options to increase research funding for mesothelioma, and not to squander this window of opportunity for these unfortunates," said Dr. Pass, who operates on over 50 mesothelioma patients every year.
MARF is the national nonprofit organization whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease. For more information, see http://www.marf.org/ or contact MARF Executive Director, Christopher E. Hahn, 805-560-8942, firstname.lastname@example.org.