Autoimmune disease patients received a win recently when U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) introduced House Bill 6218 to Congress. The bill would create an interdepartmental autoimmune disease coordinating committee. The governmental agency committee would include the Assistant Secretary of Health, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs and the Director of the National Institutes of Health among others. Its purpose would be to assess national progress on autoimmune disease research, update the national strategic plan, and make recommendations that could possibly be used to develop a national curriculum on autoimmune disease. The bill does have bi-partisan support. Buerkle has a very personal reason for initiating House Bill 6218.
"My late sister, Mary Colella, started experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis at the age of twelve. Her dreams were cut short by the disease, but she lived her remaining years, twenty of which were spent as a quadriplegic, with grace and dignity," says Buerkle. "Her life inspires me to help keep a national focus on autoimmune diseases, which is why I have introduced this legislation to increase awareness and education about autoimmune diseases."
"Army Wives" star and AARDA spokesperson, Kellie Martin, believes that the bill is a step in the right direction.
"I am very pleased that the bill will provide for the development of a curriculum for health professionals as I feel that my sister should have been diagnosed when she first developed symptoms, and that timely diagnosis might have saved her life," says Martin.
The suggested funding is just over a million dollars and could be increased in upcoming years as the Autoimmune Diseases Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee (ADICC) makes budgetary recommendations during the bill's time frame. Dr. Betty Diamond is the Chair of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association's (AARDA) Scientific Advisory Board. She is also Head of the Autoimmune Disease Center at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York with a concentration on the disease lupus. She applauds Rep. Buerkle for noticing the need and taking an affirmative approach.
"This bill will be very important in coordinating our understanding of the health and economic burden of autoimmune diseases and the varied approaches to their management and to research into their origins, treatments and prevention. This should have a major impact in advancing a coordinated approach to these diseases that in composite affect so many Americans," says Diamond.