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Dr. Spiegel is the director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He oversees the $364.6 million in funding that will be spent on diabetes research this year (a 16 percent increase over last year's budget).
Dr. Spiegel oversees the largest federal budget for diabetes research in the world—tax money that gets deducted from our paychecks. Over the last 25 years, the United States government has spent $6.5 billion of our tax dollars on diabetes research.
In my column in the January issue of DIABETES HEALTH (Getting the Ball Rolling, p. 5), I wrote Dr. Spiegel an open letter. I asked him where the NIDDK stands on development and implementation of a "master plan" that would define and oversee each stage of diabetes research and the search for a cure.
I was thrilled when I received a call from his office. "Dr. Spiegel wants to write a response," I was told. "He really cares about the readers of DIABETES HEALTH."
Letters to the Editor About "Master Plan" Keep Coming
In response to my January column, DIABETES HEALTH continues to receive terrific, well-written letters about the merits of a "master plan." I want to extend to all of you a heart-felt thanks for taking the time to write. Your thought-provoking letters will benefit us all.
In his response (found on page 23), Dr. Spiegel laid out an impressive list of steps that the NIDDK is taking to find the cause of diabetes. He also details his blueprint for improving diabetes treatment and prevention.
You Be the Judge
Please take a moment to read his plan and let us know what you think about it. Are you happy with the current course of research? Do you have any suggestions? If you controlled the $364.6 million that will be spent this year on diabetes research, what would you do differently? People with diabetes need to be involved.
I want to give all of you a chance to voice your thoughts and concerns. Until a cure is found, this project could use help—your help.
A Stone For the Soup
Consider this. I believe we should have free and easy access to all diabetes research. By all research, I mean the totality of diabetes research taking place around the world, from large-scale studies to common observations (like the frequency of left handedness among type 1s). This information should be free to everyone, and be highly indexed. With this tool, medical researchers and the general public could work together more effectively to understand the causes of diabetes.
I am happy to report that my mom's toe is almost healed. Thank you for all of your letters of encouragement.
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I hope that you are as encouraged as I am by all of the interest generated during this important debate about diabetes research in DIABETES HEALTH. It is just this sort of open discussion that may facilitate future discoveries in diabetes research.
26 Years with Diabetes
"I fear that focusing solely on finding a cure might detract from promising research aimed at preventing and treating the devastating complications of diabetes. I have already suffered damage to my eyes and kidneys from this disease. I would be extremely happy if someone found a way to prevent me from going blind or losing my kidneys, even if I still had to continue taking insulin shots every day.
Also, how would this 'master plan' be devised? Could it be done without influence from pharmaceutical companies? And, if we allow their input, how could we be sure that the plan reflects the best interests of people living with diabetes, rather than those of corporate executives?
Finally, what if an independent researcher comes up with a novel and promising idea for a research project that might lead to a cure, but that doesn't quite fit into the 'master plan?' Would that idea get left unfunded just because it's too original or the researcher doesn't have the right connections?"
"My responsibility as director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) is to ensure that public funds are invested wisely and the benefits of research reach the American people as quickly as possible."
Allan Spiegel, MD
Apr 1, 2001
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.