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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2010
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

Vision Community Testifies at House Citizen Witness Hearing on FY2011 NIH/NEI Appropriations

(Washington, D.C.) Today, in a Citizen Witness hearing held by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which was chaired by Cong. David Obey (D-WI), Neil Bressler, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) urged Congress to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $35 billion and the National Eye Institute (NEI) at $795 million for Fiscal year (FY) 2011.

Dr. Bressler, who represented the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) at the hearing, initially reminded the Subcommittee that May is Healthy Vision Month and that, in 2009, Congress passed H. Res. 366 and S. Res. 209, which recognized the 40th anniversary of the NEI and designated 2010-2020 as The Decade of Vision. He reiterated the FY2011 funding request that was previously made by NAEVR in written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee, emphasizing that the 2.5 percent "less-than-inflationary" increase for NEI proposed in the Presidentís budget was inadequate in light of the vision impairment and eye disease challenges that the Institute will face during this decade.

Dr. Bressler added his unique perspectives from his roles as Chair of the Food and Drug Administrationís (FDA) Ophthalmic Devices Panel and as Chair of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research (DRCR) Network, the NEI-funded collaborative, multi-center network dedicated to facilitating clinical research into diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, and associated conditions. Diabetic retinopathy, or swelling of the retina that affects central vision, is the most common cause of vision loss in working-age Americans. It affects as many as 30 percent of those who have had diabetes for 20 years, impairing their ability to read, drive, work, and distinguish faces.

Demonstrating the value of NEI-funded research, Dr. Bressler cited the recently reported results of a DRCR Network comparative effectiveness trial which confirmed that laser treatment for diabetic macular edema, when combined with injections of the FDA-approved drug Lucentis, is more effective than laser treatment alone, the latter of which has been the standard of care for the past 25 years. "Nearly 50 percent of patients who received this new treatment experience substantial visual improvement, and fewer than 5 percent experience substantial vision loss," said Dr. Bressler. "The investment by Congress to the NIH to make studies such as these possible is an example of the huge successful impact that these funding increases can have on the quality of life and productivity of America."

The Houseís Citizen Witness hearing came two weeks after its April 28 hearing with NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who also testified before the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee on May 5.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. Visit the Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.