(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A bipartisan group of 378 lawmakers in the House of Representatives sent a letter today to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to continue funding a pair of special diabetes research programs that currently provide $150 million a year in federal funds to research new ways to treat and prevent the disease.

The letter, signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and led by Congressional Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY), comes as the two programs – the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians – are set to expire at the end of September, if Congress fails to act.

“The [Special Diabetes Program] is making meaningful progress,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, further investment in these vital programs is essential to continue outreach and education, plan next steps for research programs, and effectively allocate resources – all of which play an important role in helping to better treat, prevent, and ultimately cure diabetes.”

Congress first established the two programs in 1997 after a bipartisan Congressional Diabetes Research Working Group found serious limitations in the nation’s ability to research and treat the disease due, in large part, to a lack of funding.

The Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes was established to provide funding to the National Institutes of Health to study type 1 diabetes, while the Special Diabetes Program for Indians was set up to provide funding to Indian Health Services to help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Both programs remain in existence today and each currently receives $150 million a year in federal funding.

Since it was first established, the special diabetes program for Type 1 research has contributed more than $2.7 billion towards diabetes research. That funding has already resulted in several significant breakthroughs and discoveries, and has helped to develop many new treatments now available to patients.

In urging the leaders to continue supporting both programs, the lawmakers specifically point to their success in helping to develop the first fully automated insulin-dosing system that’s now available to patients, discovering a new way to actually reverse vision loss in some people living with diabetes, as well as, the positive impact it’s having on the overall health of American Indians and Alaskan natives.

In addition to the program’s many successes, the lawmakers point out that continuing to fund the two programs is important not only for the 114 million Americans living with or at risk of developing diabetes, but also for the nation’s overall economy.

Right now, approximately one out of every four dollars spent on health care in the U.S. – and one out of every three dollars spent by Medicare – is spent treating people with diabetes.

Until researchers find a way to prevent or cure the disease, those numbers are expected to rise even further as an additional 1.5 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease every year.

The lawmakers’ call for continued support of the program drew quick praise from some of the nation’s leading diabetes advocacy organizations.

“We knew the Special Diabetes Program had tremendous bipartisan backing, but ADA is truly astounded and encouraged to see 378 members of Congress join the letter that the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, Representatives Diana DeGette and Tom Reed, circulated,” said Dr. LaShawn McIver, with the American Diabetes Association. “SDP has had measurable outcomes on both the research side and the American Indian/Alaska Native programming component. Without the funding provided by the Special Diabetes Program, we would not have the first artificial pancreas system or the more than 50% reduction in end stage kidney disease in AI/AN communities.”

“JDRF and our countless volunteers sincerely thank Representatives Diana DeGette and Tom Reed, the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, for their tremendous continued leadership and support of the Special Diabetes Program,” said Aaron J. Kowalski, president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “Research funded by this program is accelerating our understanding of type 1 diabetes, developing new treatments and therapies that will continue to significantly improve the lives of those impacted by T1D, and bringing us steps closer to our ultimate goal of a cure.”

A copy of the signed letter is available here.