Jul 9, 2015

Fighting Valley Fever

valley-fever

This week, the House of Representatives is taking action against rare diseases such as Valley Fever.

Throughout my community in the Central Valley of California, everyone knows someone who has battled Valley Fever. The trouble is, because it is unique to the southwest region of the United States, the market for medicine it isn’t as strong as, say, the flu.  That means our neighbors suffering through the illness have limited options for treatment.

Valley Fever may be a disease contained by regional boundaries, but there are 7,000 rare diseases throughout the world, and we have treatments for only 500 of them. In the 21st century, as technology and innovation have drastically improved our productivity and quality of life, we must do better to keep our communities healthy. That is why I have been focused on providing our national health leaders a firsthand look at the struggle Valley Fever can cause and have pushed federal agencies to take steps that could help incentivize potential treatments.

We have achieved some positive gains in the fight to secure detection and treatment options for our neighbors suffering from Valley Fever. But there is more work to be done.

This week the House of Representatives is set to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which breaks down barriers to collaboration that are holding back potential research breakthroughs. It empowers the patient to be an active participant in the treatment process rather than being stuck in a one-size-fits-all approach. And it cuts down the current FDA process that takes 15 years for treatments to move from discovery to the market.

At the core, 21st Century Cures is intended to spur the innovative spirit that helped eradicate diseases that had previously plagued our communities, such as polio and small pox. But with a backlog of 6,500 diseases without cures or treatments, the demand for attention on rare diseases is high while the supply of resources is limited.

Fortunately, Valley Fever will be specifically targeted in this bill thanks to our successful inclusion of the underlying fungi species responsible for Valley Fever as a “qualifying pathogen” within the Food and Drug Administration. This is another step forward in recognizing the importance in fighting this disease and eventually finding a potential cure or vaccine.

Since the Valley Fever Symposium in California’s Central Valley  a few years back that saw the directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health commit to the fight against Valley Fever, we are closer to finding treatments and a vaccine for this disease. This week’s consideration of the 21st Century Cures Act builds on this momentum to secure a healthier Central Valley.