Mind the Gap: Study Reveals Startling Disparity Between Research Funding and Clinical Reality of Diabetes Amputations

A study, published today in the journal Diabetes Care by authors from the USA and UK, uncovered a yawning gap between a major diabetes complication and funding.
“We were startled by these numbers”, noted David G. Armstrong, Professor of Surgery and Director of the University of Arizona’s Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA), who served as lead author on this study, “We doubt there are too many other areas in medicine where there is such an imbalance between federal research and development and the actual boots-on-the-ground problem in clinic.”

The study evaluated ten years of federal funding in the USA for diabetes in general and for diabetic foot complications– one of the most common complications known in diabetes. The findings suggested that, while $7 billion was spent on diabetes funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), less than $11 million of that went to lower extremity problems. “That wouldn’t be much of a big deal if it was a small problem” Armstrong went on to explain, “But when fully one third of the direct costs of diabetes may be related to the legs and feet, then we’re dealing with a real disparity.” Indeed, while more than 22,500 NIH grants were funded for diabetes care over the past 10 years, only 33 were funded for foot care.

“The response in terms of research investment must be proportional to the incidence and threat of the disease process”, noted co-author Joseph L. Mills, Professor of Surgery and Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “Currently there is an illogical and inexplicable mismatch between the magnitude of the problem we are seeing every day in clinic and the hospital and the meager funds being allocated to address it.  Without adjusting priorities, due to the global epidemic of diabetes, a tidal wave of wounds, gangrene, and amputations will overtake us.”

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