The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will visit the San Joaquin Valley later this year to train public health professionals and the public in recognizing and defending against valley fever, Congressman Kevin McCarthy said Monday after an in-depth meeting with the agency and its director.
“I got a commitment, where they will come to Bakersfield, where we will put on a valley fever awareness and symposium, where we’ll bring the doctors in, the community, all that have already been working on it, and work on a plan, short-term and long-term, so we’re all on the same page moving forward,” he said.
McCarthy’s announcement follows the publication of the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s ‘Just One Breath’ series investigating valley fever. Valley Public Radio is a member of the collaborative.
McCarthy also said the CDC has agreed to perform some initial analysis on the scope and components of a clinical trial, to determine the best treatment for the disease. Valley fever is a neglected disease that sickens an estimated 150,000 people every year, mostly in California and Arizona.
“What I would like to do, first, in the short-term is a randomized clinical trial, because no facts are proven out there for best treatment for valley fever,” he said. “It’s still unknown.”
He said he would work with the CDC to determine: “what would the cost be, what would the size of the sample we’d need to do, how large would we need to do it?”
McCarthy has enlisted help from the CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden to write a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It encourages the office to waive a fee to put an FDA-approved skin test on the market.
Allermed, a San Diego firm specializing in skin tests and allergy-related products, has a test to more quickly tell doctors if a patient has been exposed to valley fever. The FDA approved the test in 2011, but the company chose not to bring the test to market because it does not want to pay an annual free required by the FDA.
The FDA could waive the fee – estimated at $628,000 – if they believe that the threat to public health is a compelling, national issue.
“In speaking to the CDC, they see that this is a national issue,” McCarthy said.
To actually fund a clinical trial on a valley fever treatment or a vaccine, McCarthy also suggested creating a prize to incentivize drug makers.
“What if we put up a prize for orphan drugs?” he asked. “So companies could say it is worthwhile to go after. If we do get it, we get this prize. And you build the awareness that it’s no longer viewed as an orphan disease. Everything builds upon itself to get you to a vaccine.”
McCarthy said he intends to ultimately work with researchers and public health officials to secure funding from the National Institutes of Health for a valley fever vaccine.