Ventura County Star 8/15/04

Key medical breakthrough a ray of hope

By Alan D. Cherrington
     President, American Diabetes Association

Approximately 128 million American children and adults, including millions of Californians, suffer from devastating conditions including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's ALS, osteoporosis and spinal cord injuries. The impact of this is substantial physically, emotionally and financially. It is estimated that Californians spend more than $110 billion annually on healthcare expenses.

However, there is a ray of hope in that the potential for new cures now exists. Many medical experts believe stem cell research is a key breakthrough medical technology of the 21st century.

As we are firmly committed to transforming our hope for a cure and new treatments into reality, the American Diabetes Association ardently supports stem cell research. On the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, Californians will have the opportunity to support stem cell research by voting yes on Proposition 71.

Our organization represents more than 18 million people in the United States, or more than 6 percent of the population, living with diabetes. Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States and, unfortunately it has no cure. More than 1,754,000 Californians, or 7.3 percent of the population, have been diagnosed with diabetes. There are hundreds of thousands more who have this disease and do not know it.

While vigilantly monitoring their blood-sugar level by pricking their fingers, children and adults with diabetes live each day with the knowledge that one missed or misread test could endanger their life; and that, without a cure, the disease could escalate into such long-term consequences as kidney disease, amputation, blindness and premature death.

In supporting stem cell research, we are joined by families and individuals affected by Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries and many other equally devastating diseases.

An opportunity to make enormous strides toward understanding and possibly curing these conditions has arrived, and presents California with an important and unique opportunity. Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, offers the state the very real chance to take a leadership position in funding a field of medical research that holds tremendous promise.

Unfortunately, political squabbling has severely limited funding for the most promising areas of stem cell research. Meanwhile, millions of people are suffering and dying from diseases and injuries that could be cured if this research can move forward. Proposition 71 will change this dynamic and make $3 billion of critically needed funding available to the state's top-notch medical and scientific research institutions.

Proposition 71 is endorsed by a broad coalition that includes more than 20 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, doctors and nurses, Democrats and Republicans, California's top fiscal officers, business groups, religious organizations and groups like the Alzheimer's Association California Council, American Nurses Association of California, California Medical Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Coalition for Cancer Research, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

It authorizes tax-free state bonds that will provide a maximum of $350 million per year over 10 years to support stem cell research at California universities, medical schools and research facilities.

And, by making California a leader in stem cell research and giving the state an opportunity to share in royalties from the research, Proposition 71 will generate thousands of new jobs and millions in new state revenues.

On behalf of the millions of Americans living with or at risk for diabetes, it is the association's duty to assume a proactive stance. We are proud of past medical achievements, but we must keep in mind how much important work is yet to be done, particularly when we stand on the cusp of such promising new advancements.

Scientific achievements from stem cell research hold the potential to make innovative treatments available not only in California, but worldwide. More than half of all Californians have a loved one who has or will develop a potentially curable disease. The American Diabetes Association enthusiastically pledges its support for Proposition 71 and its promise of medical progress that may one day benefit us all.

-- Alan D. Cherrington, M.D., is president of the American Diabetes Association.

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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