Published 6/1/2008
Lindsay Law

AAOS, OTA voice support for funding AFIRM

Encourage additional funding for peer-reviewed OETRP

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) have issued a statement voicing their support for the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM). In April, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced its intention to create the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research network to develop new products and therapies to repair battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine.

Two consortia—one headed by the Rutgers’ Center for Military Biomaterials Research and the other led by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center—form AFIRM, an effort to develop advanced treatment options for severely wounded servicemen and women. The Rutgers-led consortium is cochaired by AAOS fellow George Muschler, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic.

“A profound need exists for focused medical research to help military surgeons find new limb-sparing techniques to save injured extremities, avoid amputations, and preserve and restore the function of injured extremities,” said AAOS President Tony Rankin, MD. “The creation of AFIRM should prove to be an important component in the overall effort to better care for our wounded warriors. But one program cannot go at this alone.”

OETRP funding also needed
The AAOS and OTA have advocated for several years for allocating increased resources to the DOD for medical research on extremity war injuries. The two groups actively support the DOD’s Orthopaedic Extremity Trauma Research Program (OETRP), a competitively awarded, peer-reviewed research program operated by the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command, which also oversees the new AFIRM program. OETRP is designed to address urgent medical challenges by involving military and civilian orthopaedic surgeons and researchers in its research efforts.

“The research questions that AFIRM will address should provide the basis for discovering new knowledge that can be further tested and refined by OETRP, a more translational and clinically focused research effort,” said Dr. Rankin. “We must increase funding for OETRP so these vital programs can work together to treat our war-wounded soldiers.”

The AAOS is encouraging Congress to include additional funding to support OETRP in the fiscal year (FY) 2008 supplemental appropriations bill to bring total 2008 funding to $50 million. The AAOS is also seeking this level of support for the program in the FY 2009 defense appropriations bill.

“OETRP is a vital tool in our efforts to improve treatment and outcomes of battlefield extremity injuries in the near term,” said Andrew N. Pollak, MD, OTA past president and chair of the AAOS task force on extremity war injuries. “The creation of AFIRM is a testament to the importance of significant investments in the full spectrum of research to help our military orthopaedic surgeons discover new, innovative ways to best treat these complex injuries.

I am confident that together, OETRP and AFIRM will greatly advance treatments for our critically wounded soldiers.”

Lindsay Law is communications manager in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at law@aaos.org