Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Text of the Sanders Dear Colleague for FY14 GWI CDMRP Funding

"Senator Sanders invites your boss to sign onto the below letter in support of continued CDMRP funding for the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) in FY 2014.  Deadline is close of business Thursday, April 25.  To sign on or if you have any questions, please contact Steve Robertson at the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee."


The Honorable Dick Durbin                                                   The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairman                                                                                 Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Appropriations                                     Senate Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Defense                                                      Subcommittee on Defense
Washington, D.C. 20510                                                        Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Cochran:

Thank you for your continued support of the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), including the $20 million awarded to the program for FY2013.   As the Subcommittee begins work on the FY 2014 Appropriations bill for the Department of Defense, we are pleased to point out the dramatic progress made by the program during the past three years.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) officially recognized that the chronic multi-symptom illness affecting 250,000 Gulf War veterans is a serious disease not caused by psychiatric illness that also affects other U.S. military forces.  The IOM report called for a major national research effort to identify treatments.  In January 2013 a new report, also from IOM, confirmed that, “preliminary data suggest that [the illness] is occurring in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well."   In March 2013, Georgetown University published a groundbreaking study that found that veterans who suffer from Gulf War Illness have physical changes in their brains that may account for pain while performing normal daily tasks.

The scientific community has responded with a dramatic increase in the quality and quantity of proposals submitted to CDMRP.  Most encouraging, CDMRP-funded researchers have completed the first successful pilot study of a medication to treat one of the major symptoms of Gulf War Illness.  In recognition of this progress, a bipartisan amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2012 provided $10 million for the program, and a bipartisan amendment to the 2013 Act provided $20 million for the program.  The $10 million increase in FY13 offset a corresponding $10 million reduction in Gulf War illness research at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

We appreciate the support you have given to make this progress possible and respectfully seek your support in FY 2014 for adequate funding to continue the progress that has been made.  Funding will be used for pilot studies of promising treatments, for clinical trials of treatments shown effective in earlier pilot studies, and for the execution of collaborative treatment research plans developed by consortiums of scientists funded by CDMRP in FY 2010.

This small yet effective program warrants support, even in a time of fiscal austerity.  The GWIRP is the only national program addressing this issue.  It is a competitive, peer-reviewed program open to any doctor or scientist on a competitive basis.  By contrast, VA’s research programs are open only to VA doctors, few of whom have expertise in chronic multi-symptom illness.  Unfortunately, VA decided to cut its Gulf War research budget from $15 to $5 million in FY 2013.

Furthermore, the CDMRP is providing significant outcomes.  CDMRP-funded researchers at the University of California, San Diego, reported in June 2011 on the first successful medication treatment study in the history of Gulf War illness research.  The study showed that the supplement CoQ10 produced significant improvement in one of the most serious symptoms of Gulf War illness, fatigue with exertion.  This discovery is not a cure, and more work needs to be done to address this illness that affects 250,000 Gulf War veterans.  

We respectfully request that you continue to provide the necessary resources to accomplish this vital program.

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

No comments: