Clinton Declares $5M Diabetes Effort
Sonya Ross,
Associated Press Writer

3:46 PM EDT; July 13, 2000; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Hoping for the "true miracle" of curing diabetes, President Clinton on Thursday announced a $5 million effort for clinical trials on a promising treatment for the disease. During a speech before the NAACP, Clinton announced that the National Institutes of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation would release $5 million to 10 centers for research into a new technique for transplanting cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin.

A team at the University of Alberta tested the procedure, called islet transplantation, on seven patients with severe Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenile Diabetes. All of them have been able to maintain normal blood sugar without taking insulin shots. Clinton said more research is needed "so we can prove it wasn't an accident" and hopefully speed up the day when a cure is found. He told the NAACP the findings held especially great import for minorities, who are more likely than whites to be afflicted with the disease. "If we can repeat these preliminary findings, it could put a cure for juvenile diabetes within our reach -- a true miracle."

Clinton said, "We're going to do everything we can about it, and I hope we'll have some of your prayers and your support. It's worth some of your money to spend on that." The funds announced Thursday will go to centers in Boston; Edmonton, Canada; Miami, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Seattle and Bethesda, MD, as well as Geneva, Switzerland; Giessen, Germany; and Milan, Italy. The trials, on 40 patients aged [18-65] who are unable to control their blood sugars even with strict adherence to insulin treatments, are scheduled to begin this Fall. They will receive islet transplants over the next 18 months. Children are ineligible for the trial.

Some 1 million Americans have Type 1 Diabetes, and approximately 25 percent of them are minorities. The White House said 30,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, 13,000 of them among children. Overall, some 16 million people are diabetic, and 1:4 black women over age 55 have the disease. The immune systems of Type 1 Diabetes sufferers destroy pancreatic cells that secrete insulin, which is needed to convert sugar into energy. They must get regular insulin shots to survive; without the shots, they could go blind or develop life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure. Clinton also highlighted his recent request for $300 million over five years for diabetes treatment and prevention. "We would like to see our children lifted from the burden and the fear, and the terrors and the agony, that can come with juvenile diabetes," Clinton said.