The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) is calling on Congress for $4 million in each of the next five years to support better awareness and avoidance of blood clots. The Alliance maintains that this relatively modest spending could save as many as 100,000 lives a year - more than three times the number claimed by breast cancer each year - and as much as $10 billion annually in avoidable hospital readmissions by lowering the incidence of misdiagnosis and the failure to take preventative measures to avoid blood clots. Since 2010, funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for education and prevention of blood clots has been cut by more than half, to less than $600,000 since 2010. At a Capitol Hill Briefing in March, NBCA appealed to Congressional leaders to end this travesty by supporting a dramatic increase in funding for blood clot education and prevention.
After cuts of more than 34 percent since 2010, the CDC Division of Blood Disorders last year spent $13 million to address various bleeding and clotting disorders. Of that amount, only $560,000 was dedicated to reducing blood clots. Former NBCA President Randy Fenninger, a blood clot survivor and leading health advocate, these reductions are "illogical" and "reckless." He called upon Congress to support:
- FY 2015 funding for the CDC's Division of Blood Disorders that would return its budget to the 2010 level of $19.9 million.
- Establishing a new CDC funding line specifically to address venous thromboembolism (VTE)-related needs. (Currently, based on past Congressional directives, limited VTE-related funding has been drawn from a budget line labeled for "hemophilia.")
- Funding for this new line item at a minimum of $4 million per year for the next five years. This is what is required to reasonably address the education and other prevention needs to reduce hospital-acquired VTE and other preventable blood clots.
"Who wouldn't want to spend $4 million to save $10 billion - and prevent as many as 100,000 deaths each year?" Fenninger asked.
"Our nation can't move ahead to solve the public health crisis associated with blood clots at funding levels that are subjecting programs already in place to potential irreparable damage and making needed new programs merely pipe dreams," said NBCA Executive Director Joseph Isaacs, himself a blood clot survivor. "Despite the huge potential for significant returns on investment in both human and economic terms, the devastating cuts to the funding needed to address blood disorders are neither good public policy nor wise business decisions."
Blood clots or venous thromboembolisms (VTEs) are the body's way of reducing the loss of blood from cuts or bruises, but they can have serious or even deadly consequences when they block the flow of blood inside a blood vessel. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT or leg clots) often form in veins in the lower leg, but can also appear in the upper leg, arm, groin or belly. If a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can inhibit the flow of blood in the lungs, and cause sudden death. Symptoms, such as swelling, pain or tenderness, skin discoloration, shortness of breath, chest pain and rapid heart rate, mimic many other conditions.
Blood clots have quietly become a leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. They do not discriminate based on age, gender, race, ethnicity or fitness level. VTE, primarily in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism) affect an estimated one million Americans of all ages each year. They kill as many as 300,000 people and contribute to more than $16 billion in treatment costs annually.
Jack Ansell, MD, Professor of Medicine at New York University, stresses the need for better education. "Even though specialized knowledge about thrombosis (blood clots) has soared in the past decade," he said, "research shows that the general public is largely unaware of the risk factors and warning signs and that this is true of many healthcare providers at the front lines of diagnosis. Many doctors misdiagnose blood clots. This means many patients don't get timely and accurate diagnosis of blood clots, placing their lives at risk." Deaths from blood clots are widely understated, according to Ansell, because death certificates often recognize a broader chronic illness (e.g., heart disease or cancer) for which patients were being treated, rather than the blood clot that actually killed them.
Ansell cited a survey by the American Public Health Association in which 95 percent of respondents reported that their physicians had never discussed blood clots with them when symptoms existed. Nearly three-quarters had little or no awareness of the condition, and even among those that did, only slightly more than half could cite any risk factors for developing blood clots.
NBCA, the nation's leading patient advocacy organization representing people have or are vulnerable to blood clots, relocated from New York to Washington, D.C., earlier this year in order better advance the prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and clot-provoked stroke.
For more information about blood clot education, treatment and prevention, go to www.stoptheclot.org.