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Repug government jumps selectively for "culture of life" issues

It’s a world turned upside down when you have lawmakers meeting in the dead of night to legislatively soothe fundamentalists screaming over Terri Schiavo, yet these same elected officials move like snails on medical issues before them that could help thousands each year facing life-threatening situations. Apparently aneurysms and drug-resistant TB (the latter is on a bioterror-threat list) aren’t important enough for government attention. (AP, via Durham Herald-Sun):

It often comes down to the willingness of the government and lawmakers to spend money, say those who must make the pitch to Congress and federal agencies.

The National Aneurysm Alliance has been pressing Congress for months to approve federal funding to screen Medicare patients for deadly abdominal aortic aneurysms, but so far has come up empty on money for the roughly $80 to $100 tests. Contrasting that fight with congressional leaders’ weekend rush earlier this month to try to get Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube restored, the alliance’s leader can’t hide his frustration.

‘Our best estimate is that about 15,000 Americans die each year from ruptured aneurysms, and I grew up in a town in central Connecticut where the entire population was about 30,000, so that’s about half my town keeling over,’ said Dr. Robert Zwolak, chairman of the alliance and a surgery professor at Dartmouth Medical School.

‘Those lives would all be saved if we could find them by screening,’ Zwolak added. ‘Yes, the Schiavo case is tragic, but the reality is on average about 40 people a day are going to be dying of ruptured aneurysms.’

After 12 years of research that led to a possible cure for a worldwide health menace called multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, Dr. Albert Owens, who formerly headed the Johns Hopkins University Hospital, is finding that getting final funding for the drug is almost as challenging as his lab work.

Owens, now president of FASgen, a drug development company founded by Johns Hopkins faculty members, has hired lobbyists and made at least a half-dozen trips to Washington in recent months asking Congress and federal agencies for the roughly $5 million to $8 million needed for human testing. “We’re looking for help. Now, we’re not trying to take shortcuts,” Owens said. “On the other hand, we don’t want to waste any time either. We want to move forward as quickly as the science will let us move.”

Even though the deadly and painful disease is starting to appear in the United States, is on a government bioterror-threat list and federal money helped finance the research to this point, Owens and his team are still searching for the last bit of money they need to get the drug to patients.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding