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Funding for Uterine Fibroid Research on Hold in Congress

A bill to allocate $10 million for research into treatment of uterine fibroids, a common affliction among women, particularly women of color, is not likely to move through Congress until after the November elections and possibly not until January, Women’s E-News reports. The Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act, introduced in April by Senators Jean Carnahan (D-MO), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), would mandate funding on uterine fibroids research, which currently receives only $500,000 for basic research of the National Institute of Health’s $19.9 billion budget, according to Women’s E-News. Urinary tract infection research, on the other hand, receives almost $15 million per year from the NIH, according to the New York Times. Thirty to 70 percent of all women are estimated to have uterine fibroids – particularly women in their 30s and 40s and African American women. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that can cause often debilitating side effects such as pain and heavy bleeding, as well as pregnancy complications, including miscarriages, and infertility. Hysterectomy has been the most common treatment for uterine fibroids; about 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year to treat fibroids, in which surgeons remove both the fibroids and the entire uterus. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reported that almost one-fourth of all African-American women have hysterectomies because of uterine fibroids. However, other treatments that leave the uterus intact are available but not widely known or researched, including myomectomy, which surgically removes the fibroids, and uterine artery embolization which blocks blood flow to fibroids, causing them to shrink. Mifepristone (also known as RU-486 or the “abortion pill”) has been shown in clinical trials to be an effective method of treating fibroids without the use of surgery. The Feminist Majority Foundation has been leading a campaign to increase clinical trials and research into the potential uses of mifepristone to treat not only fibroids, but also endometriosis, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and other serious illnesses. However, efforts by anti-abortion extremists, including a recent petition to the Food and Drug Administration asking for a review of FDA approval for the drug, have severely limited access for women in the US to a potentially lifesaving drug. TAKE ACTION: Increase Mifepristone Research Funding and Protect Safe Medical Abortion

Sources:

WomenÕs E-News 10/29/02; New York Times 8/27/02; NIH release 7/22/02

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