More MS news articles for September 2000

New Legislation Creates Landmark Autoimmune Diseases Committee at NIH

Called 'Victory' For Women's Health

DETROIT, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Congress signed legislation yesterday that the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is calling a landmark in the recognition of autoimmunity as a major disease category and one that demands significant research attention.

The legislation establishes for the first time a permanent Autoimmune Disease Coordinating Committee within the Director's Office of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH Initiative on Autoimmune Diseases creates a coordinating committee within the NIH director's office that will oversee all the autoimmune research activities throughout the national research institutes.  It also will promote cooperation and coordination among the institutes and other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), involved in ongoing research into autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases.

The legislation, spearheaded by Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Delaware) and Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-California), is included in the Children's Health Act.

"Although autoimmune diseases may share a common cause, the autoimmune process results in diseases as diverse as type 1 diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis," said Senator Biden.  "This new legislation will ensure that researchers working on one of these diseases will be able to fully benefit from knowledge gained from research on all other autoimmune diseases, with an eye toward eradication of all these devastating illnesses." 

"Most significantly, the coordinating committee will develop a plan for research and education on autoimmune diseases," according to Representative Waxman.  "The strategic plan will create crucial new funding opportunities for autoimmune research and provide an objective, scientifically sound roadmap for Congress and NIH to follow in pursuit of new treatments and cures."

Specifically, the plan must provide for a broad range of research studies relating to biomedical, psychosocial, and rehabilitative issues, including studies that address why autoimmune diseases disproportionately affect women.

"With millions suffering from autoimmune diseases, 75 percent of whom are women, this is clearly a victory for women's health," said Virginia Ladd, executive director, AARDA which played a major role in advocating this legislation.  She added that "the legislation also comes on the heels of a new study that ranks autoimmunity as one of the 10 leading causes of death among women age 65 and under."

In addition, the strategic plan which must reflect input from a broad range of scientists, patients and advocacy groups will provide for:

The chair of the Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee will serve as principal advisor to the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Director of NIH; the Director of the CDC; and, the Commissioner of the FDA.

According to AARDA, approximately 50 million Americans, 20 percent of the population or one in five people suffer from some 80 or so autoimmune diseases.  Of these, the majority are women with perhaps 30 million affected. Autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, scleroderma, lupus and Graves' disease.

Autoimmunity is the underlying cause of these diseases.  It is the process whereby the immune system mistakenly recognizes the body's own proteins as foreign invaders and begins producing antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues, causing a variety of diseases.

AARDA is the nation's only organization dedicated to bringing a national focus to autoimmunity as a category of disease and a major women's health issue, and promoting a collaborative research effort in order to find better treatments and a cure for all autoimmune diseases.

For more information, please visit AARDA's web site at or call 1-888-856-9433.

SOURCE American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Web Site: