In the News
On April 2 and 8, Dr. Zerhouni testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on behalf of all NIH Institutes and Centers, including the NHLBI. The Senate appropriations hearing for the NIH also was held on April 8. At the hearings, Dr. Zerhouni, Dr. Lenfant, and other Directors highlighted specific areas in which the NIH has made progress over the past years and described future opportunities. Representative Wicker (R-MS) asked Dr. Lenfant specifically about the NHLBI-supported Jackson Heart Study, and Senator Specter (R-PA) asked Dr. Lenfant and Dr. Stephen Katz, Director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, about NIH research on scleroderma. Dr. Lenfant’s written testimony for the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations and program highlights submitted as part of the FY 2004 budget justification are available through www.nhlbi.nih.gov/funding/fromdir/index.htm.
Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced the Pulmonary Hypertension Research Act of 2003 (H.R. 1316) to expand NHLBI support of research on pulmonary hypertension. If passed, it would require the NHLBI to develop centers dedicated to research and education efforts on pulmonary hypertension, and a data system for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information related to pulmonary hypertension research. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the Diamond-Blackfan Anemia Act (H.R. 894). The bill, which was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, would require the NIH to expand and intensify research regarding Diamond-Blackfan Anemia.
Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced the Women’s Autoimmune Diseases Research and Prevention Act (H.R. 370), which also was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill would require the NIH Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee to expand, intensify, and further coordinate research on autoimmune diseases in women.
In February, the House passed the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 (H.R. 534). A similar bill, S. 245, was introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Another bill, the Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003 (S. 303), was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Donor Outreach, Network, and Timely Exchange (DONATE) Act (S. 376), which was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. If passed, the bill would promote organ donation and facilitate interstate linkage and 24-hour access to state donor registries.
Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL) introduced H. Con. Res. 45 to emphasize the importance of organ, tissue, bone marrow, and blood donation and support National Donor Day (February 14). The resolution acknowledged the efforts of many professional and patient organizations, several of which have participated in NHLBI PIO meetings:
Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced H. Con. Res. 6 to support the establishment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month.
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced H. Con. Res. 30 and Sen. Con. Res. 33, which include a statement that the NIH should continue to take a leadership role in scleroderma research and should host a symposium to identify research priorities.
Through Sen. Res. 98, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) asked President Bush to issue a proclamation designating October 12-18, 2003, as National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Week.
Advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology can detect heart attacks in emergency room patients with chest pain more accurately and faster than traditional methods. Findings of an NHLBI-supported study suggest that more patients who are suffering a heart attack could be identified as candidates for treatment to reduce or prevent permanent damage to the heart if they were assessed with MRI. "Using MRI to detect heart problems in the emergency department will ultimately save lives," said Dr. Lenfant. "Because patients will be diagnosed and treated more quickly, cardiac MRIs might save costs as well."
A study of long-term, low-dose warfarin to prevent the recurrence of two blood clotting disorders, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism, resulted in such a high degree of benefit to the patients — without significant adverse effects — that the NHLBI stopped the study early. Compared with those taking a placebo, the participants in the Prevention of Recurrent Venous Thromboembolism (PREVENT) trial who received warfarin were 64 percent less likely to experience subsequent episodes of DVT and pulmonary embolism.
The most frequently used initial therapy for patients who have atrial fibrillation is treatment to restore and maintain normal heart rhythm. However, the Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management (AFFIRM) found that the "heart rhythm" strategy prevents no more deaths than treatment to merely control the rate at which the heart beats. Furthermore, researchers found that the "heart rhythm" approach does not result in a lower risk of stroke, nor does it improve the patient’s quality of life or cognitive function — all of which had been presumed to be benefits over the "heart rate" strategy. The "heart rate" strategy may also be associated with lower health care costs. Drugs used to control heart rate tend to be less expensive, and as Dr. D. George Wyse, chair of the AFFIRM steering committee, explained, "[investigators] found that patients in the rhythm control group were more likely to be hospitalized, and hospital costs account for the majority of total medical costs."
An NHLBI-supported study recently revealed that hydroxyurea therapy not only protects adults who have sickle cell anemia from painful crises and a pneumonia-like illness called acute chest syndrome, but also prolongs their lives. Even the sickest patients — those who suffered three or more crises a year — benefited. Because severely ill patients require more emergency room visits and hospitalizations than those who have less severe disease, the results have important implications both for patient care and for decreasing health care costs. According to lead investigator Dr. Martin Steinberg, Director of the Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease at Boston University School of Medicine, "Presently only a minority of eligible patients are taking hydroxyurea. Our study strongly suggests that adults with sickle cell anemia and clinically significant complications of their disease, like frequent painful episodes and the common pneumonia-like events, should take hydroxyurea under the supervision of a knowledgeable physician. Most people who take this medication will feel better; we now know they will live longer."