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McCarthy and Schweikert Introduce Historic Valley Fever Legislation

Jul 26, 2018
Press Release

Today, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force, introduced H.R. 6562, the bipartisan FORWARD Act with fellow Co-Chairman Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-6) and Task Force Members Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-2), Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37), and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9). This legislation would strengthen research and help advance treatment and vaccine development for Coccidioidomycosis, commonly known as Valley Fever, as well as other orphan endemic fungal diseases.

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the primary sponsor of the bipartisan FORWARD Act, released the following statement:

“Valley fever is an endemic fungal disease that impacts many of our Central Valley communities.  In the first six months of 2018, there have been twice as many reported cases of Valley Fever in Kern County compared to last year during this same period. With cases on the rise, we must redouble our efforts to develop a vaccine for this disease, as well as improve the diagnostic tools and treatment options available to those who suffer from it. This legislation is designed to do just that.

"Since coming to Congress, stamping out Valley Fever has been a top priority of mine.  From focusing Federal and local efforts on this disease at the 2013 Valley Fever Symposium in Bakersfield to working with the NIH and CDC leadership to prioritize research efforts to introducing the FORWARD Act, my hope is that one day, Valley Fever will join the ranks of polio or smallpox – a relic of the past that has been eradicated through the ingenuity and hard work of the men and women who are dedicated to finding better treatments and ultimately, a vaccine.”

Congressman David Schweikert released the following statement:

“Arizona has been home to 68.3% of diagnosed Valley Fever cases over the last ten years. This legislation represents a breakthrough for researchers of this orphan disease. Our design for collecting critical clinical data, while protecting patient privacy through the use of blockchain, should become the future of medical research.”

Congresswoman Martha McSally released the following statement:

“There are more Valley Fever infections in Arizona than anywhere else in the world. Last year, nearly 7,000 cases were reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Valley Fever is on the rise in Southern Arizona when it should be on the decline. I was pleased to work with Leader McCarthy and the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force on this legislation. The FORWARD Act will tackle Arizona’s public health crisis head on and focus on eradicating this infectious disease once and for all.”  

Congresswoman Karen Bass released the following statement:

“I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to combat Valley Fever. The impact this disease has had on communities in Southern California and the greater Southwest region of the country will be significantly mitigated by advancing treatment and vaccine development. As a former health professional, I’ve seen lives saved by scientific research, which is why I hope Congress can come together to pass this good piece of legislation.” 

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema released the following statement:

“Whether it’s a neighbor, family member, or coworker, most Arizonans know someone who’s been affected by Valley Fever. The illness can leave someone unable to work, care for their kids, attend school, or worse. Our bill helps Arizonans by advancing research and moving us closer to finding effective treatments.”

Valley Fever experts and advocates issued the following statements:

“Congressman Kevin McCarthy has been tireless in his efforts to increase awareness of Valley Fever and bring critical funding to Kern County - where it is needed the most.  As Medical Director for the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical, I am proud to lead our clinical team as we continue our mission to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers; provide the best patient care available and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. I fully support the FORWARD Act and think this is a critical step forward in combatting this disease.” 

-Royce Johnson, M.D., Medical Director of the Kern Medical Valley Fever Institute and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Kern Medical

“For decades, there has been an obvious public health need and an economic benefit for better treatments, better diagnostic tests, and vaccines to prevent Valley Fever.  There are opportunities to advance solutions in all three of these areas.  This new initiative is a big step in the right direction. I am very encouraged by the leadership that Congressmen McCarthy and Schweikert have taken to give Valley Fever the visibility and the resources that it needs for progress to be made. The University of Arizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence is ready to help in this effort.”

-  Dr. John Galgiani, Director of the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence

“The FORWARD Act is a tremendous milestone in the efforts to treat Valley Fever and I am excited to support this smart, focused legislation from Congressman McCarthy and the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force. Valley Fever touches the lives of all of us living in the endemic regions. The amount of hope this bill holds for patients like myself and the families of patients like mine is beyond expression. The Valley Fever Americas Foundation has been working to prevent and cure Valley Fever for nearly 20 years and the amount of promise this bill holds is immeasurable. We look forward to continuing to work with Congressman McCarthy and the Congressional Valley Fever Task force to cure and prevent Valley Fever.”

-  Rob Purdie, Vice President, Valley Fever Americas Foundation and Patient, Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical

Background

·      The full bill text of H.R. 6562 can be read here.

·      Coccidioidomycosis, commonly referred to as Valley Fever, is a disease caused by fungal spores found in the soil in arid regions primarily in the American southwest. Symptoms can range from flu-like to being so severe that bones, skin, eyes, and even the brain can be affected. While most individuals infected with Valley Fever will never experience symptoms, for those who do, they are often serious and sometimes life-threatening. To learn more about Valley Fever, click here.

·      According to Valley Fever experts, there currently is no vaccine or cure for this disease and existing treatments vary in efficacy.

·      The Finding Orphan-disease Remedies With Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act is designed to advance sustained efforts to combat Valley Fever in the short, medium and long-term. Specifically, the FORWARD Act would in the:

o   Short-Term: Immediately support and prioritize basic research for Valley Fever and other fungal diseases, establish a blockchain pilot program so that medical researchers can more easily access clinical data for research while preserving patient privacy, and create a Federal working group to coordinate research efforts on Valley Fever;

o   Medium-Term: Streamline the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process to get new antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines approved for use in humans and add antifungal diagnostic tool and treatment development to the successful public-private partnership CARB-X program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and,

o   Long-Term:  Encourage the development of a Valley Fever vaccine by extending Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act market incentives to antifungal vaccines and create a FDA priority review voucher program for endemic orphan fungal diseases, similar to the existing voucher program for rare pediatric and tropical diseases, to further incentivize the development of new treatments, cures, and vaccines for diseases, such as Valley Fever.