California Republicans seek FDA help in fighting valley fever

California’s seven House Republicans are asking the Trump administration to give priority to valley fever under the Food and Drug Administration’s fast-track program for the development of drug treatments.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and other state Republicans argue in a letter to the Health and Human Services secretary that possible treatments for valley fever warrants the fast-track process, called the Priority Review Voucher program, because there are no treatments and “much remains to be understood about this disease.”

The FDA program is designed to spur development of cures or treatments for diseases that don’t have a compelling commercial market, often because the diseases hit poor or marginalized groups of people. The program rewards drug companies that develop cures or treatments with a voucher that can be used — or sold — to get fast-track approval on other drugs.

Valley fever is a lung infection caused by inhaling the spores of fungus commonly found in the soil in the Central Valley and other parts of the world. It is associated with rural areas and exposure to dust. There is no cure or vaccine.


McCarthy and other Republicans introduced a bill this year that would do the same thing. But now they’re asking the Health and Human Services secretary to move unilaterally to add valley fever to the program.

While anyone can get the disease if they are exposed to the fungus, it often strikes people who work in the Central Valley’s fields or construction sites where soil is often kicked up.

California documented record levels of the disease in 2017.