December 16, 2019
Lupus Research Alliance advocates have good reason to pat themselves on the back today! The 2020 Defense Appropriations Act, on which Congress will vote in the coming days, would provide exactly what in-person and virtual advocates requested during “The Lupus Research Alliance 15th Annual Advocate for Lupus Research Hill Day” in March. The new spending bill would double the existing budget to $10 million for the Department of Defense Lupus Research Program and provide a $3 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health, bringing that total to $41.6 billion for biomedical research.
Largely through the efforts of the Lupus Research Alliance leadership and advocates, the Lupus Research Program was established in 2017 through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) of the Department of Defense. Each year since, passionate LRA advocates have succeeded in securing allocations of $5 million. In the first two years, 220 applications for research grants were received, which represents about $80 million in requested funding. But with the limited budget, only 25 grants could be given in the first two years. Advocacy outreach convinced Congress to double America’s investment in this dedicated lupus research program to $10 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
LRA President and CEO Kenneth M. Farber commented, “With this budget increase, twice as many grants for promising research can be awarded. That means twice the potential for a discovery that can deliver new therapies and a cure.”
The Lupus Research Alliance is very proud of our advocates for the fortitude they’ve shown joining us in DC to share stories of life with a debilitating disease. In addition to these advocates, the LRA thanks the people who supported them with phone calls, emails and social media. It is due to all of them that Congress understands the critical need for the research needed to deliver new treatment options and advances toward a cure.
The LRA greatly appreciates the Congressional Lupus Caucus’ leadership in establishing the Lupus Research Program at the Department of Defense. Caucus Co-chairs: Representatives William Keating (D-MA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Peter King (R-NY) deserve special recognition.
The Lupus Research Alliance also thanks leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees for their dedication to biomedical research: House Appropriations Chair Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Defense Subcommittee Chair Peter Visclosky (D-IN) as well as Senate Appropriations Chair and Defense Subcommittee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL), Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Defense Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Durbin (D-IL).
Lupus Affects the Military
Nine out of ten people with lupus are women, and the risk is significantly greater among African-Americans, Hispanics, Native-Americans and Asians. The Department of Defense notes that lupus is “of growing medical concern for the military, primarily due to the increasing number of women serving.” Women account for almost 15 percent of active duty Service Members, almost 20 percent of Reserves and 16 percent of the National Guard. The Department also points out that post-traumatic stress disorder has been associated with doubling the risk for autoimmune diseases, including lupus and that other psychiatric disorders commonly found among military personnel increase the risk for autoimmune diseases by 1.5 times. Additionally, lupus is costly to the military with thousands of outpatient visits to care for active Service members with the disease.