Coordinated Diabetes Research Promises Accelerated Improvement in Care

Bipartisan legislation formalizing the integration of programs and activities focused on diabetes across federal agencies heads to the President for his signature.

With Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Jonathan D. Leffert, MD

Editor's noteOn November 2, the National Clinical Care Commission Act was signed into law.

The National Clinical Care Commission Act (S. 920) — enacted to enhance the utilization of resources for diabetes research — received unanimous support in the House of Representatives, following its passage in the Senate in September. The express goal of the commission will be to enhance federal funding for diabetes prevention and treatment with the ultimate aim of improving the clinical care of patients.1

“When it comes to advancing diabetes research at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere, we continue to make steady progress.  But we must never lose sight of our goals: We want the tools and therapies to prevent diabetes from ever occurring," Senator Jeanne Shaheen told EndocrineWeb, "In the meantime, we want to ensure that every person with diabetes has the very best clinical care and support.” 

The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by both Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Susan Collins (R-ME) co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus along with House of Representative co-chairs Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) who co-chair the Congressional Diabetes Caucus.2

Senator Shaheen co-sponsors legislation to enhance diabetes research across all federal agencies to improve future care.Senator Shaheen who co-sponsored legislation to enhance diabetes research across all federal agencies that will achieve improvement care for patients.

Founded in 1996, the goal of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus is to educate members of Congress and their staff about diabetes and to support legislative activities aimed to improve diabetes research, education, and treatment. There are currently 300 congressional members of these health-related caucuses with four other bills in the Senate and seven bills in the House that are under consideration to help people with diabetes in the United States.

“Diabetes is personal for many of us, and establishing a national commission will play an important role in improving health outcomes for millions of Americans with diabetes,” Sen. Shaheen said in a press statement following passage of the legislation.2  

This bipartisan legislation will ensure that the federal government is equipped to streamline and leverage investments in diabetes education, research, prevention, and treatment. We must continue to push forward as we seek to reverse the human and economic toll of this disease and, hopefully, discover a cure.2

Currently, diabetes is estimated to affect 26% of adults (18 years of age or older), there are more than 79 million adults who are anticipated to have a diagnosis of prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2050, one in three Americans will have some form of diabetes unless a dramatic improvement in disease management occurs to change this trajectory.

“The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) is very excited about the passage of the NCCA,” said Jonathan D. Leffert, MD, managing partner of the North Texas Endocrine Center, in Dallas, Texas, and president of the AACE, “We believe the commission will enable private sector clinical expertise to inform federal decision-making to ensure that initiatives and programs incorporate current best practices to [ultimately] bring the highest level of care to our patients.”

“The goal of this commission will be to facilitative the research of the more than 30 federal agencies involved in diabetes programs and activities to ensure that they are working closely together so as to develop a coordinated response to the ongoing management of diabetes,” Dr. Leffert told EndocrineWeb.

“With new [diabetes] technologies appearing every day, it is important that agencies of the federal government provide both regulatory oversight and the insurance coverage necessary for the care of patients with diabetes,” he said, “The commission will allow for the agencies to interact on a consistent basis and plan for the introduction of new technology to optimize patient care.”

With regard to research, the commission mandate is to achieve a more focused and coordinated environment for research in the basic sciences and for moving findings to clinical practice, including clinical trials that will have a direct impact on diabetes management. Termed the “gateway disease” by the Diabetes Advocacy Alliance, which prepared a fact sheet on the myriad health consequences of diabetes in America with a call to action on what policymakers can do to improve diabetes detection, prevention, and care. 

As required by this legislation, a public/private commission must be convened to evaluate programs and activities currently underway in federally-funded programs and to identify opportunities for improvement in the clinical care of diabetes-related conditions including complex diabetes, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disease, or complications related to the aforementioned conditions.

The commission is charged with inviting representation from diabetes experts to include researchers, endocrinologists, primary care practitioners, allied health professionals such as certified diabetes educators, registered dietitians, and patient advocates from national diabetes organizations.

This legislation establishes within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS,) a national Clinical Care Commission charged with evaluating and making recommendations to better integrate and coordination and leveraging of federal programs related to complex metabolic or autoimmune diseases that result from issues related to insulin and represent a significant disease burden (e.g., diabetes). 

 Specifically, the National Clinical Care Commission Act will improve the quality of diabetes care by:1

  1. Identifying gaps where new approaches are needed to improve diabetes care and management;
  2. Eliminating duplication and conflicting efforts and assisting in coordination of all federal agencies;
  3. Leveraging the significant federal investment in research by evaluating best practices and other resources and tools for diabetes healthcare professionals and patients;
  4. Evaluating the utilization and data collection mechanisms of existing programs; and
  5. Providing guidance on diabetes clinical care to maximize the effectiveness of the strong federal investment in diabetes research.

A report of the commission's findings with recommendations to enhance diabetes efforts across federal agencies will be presented to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Congress within 90 days after the legislation becomes law. 

The bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 2012.3

“Cutting-edge medical research and clinical care institutions only matter if we can translate that research into direct patient care,” said Representative Pete Olson, the original author of the house bill.3

“My bill will help ensure that Americans at risk of diabetes receive appropriate and effective preventive care and those with diabetes receive the same high-quality care and enjoy a better quality of life by successfully managing their disease,” he said.

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