Rep. Chris Smith’s End Neglected Diseases Act to Become Law
Lyme Disease Bill Also Heading to White House
Two major health bills authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) were attached to an end-of-year, must-pass spending package Tuesday and will become law by the end of the week.
Smith’s first bill to become law this week, the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (HR 3460), supports the treatment, control, and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). It ensures that that United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) programs effectively integrate NTD treatment, control and elimination efforts with other development issues, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, water and sanitation and education.
“More than 10 million Americans living in extreme poverty—and 1.4 billion people worldwide—are currently infected with at least one of these awful, but preventable diseases which blind, disable, disfigure and sometime kill victims” Smith said. “My bill breaks down silos and integrates critical therapies USAID is already doing to help those suffering from NTDs such as West Nile Virus, Zika, dengue or severe dengue fever, leprosy, scabies and soil-transmitted helminthiases (STH) (roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm).”
Smith, a Senior Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Ranking Member of its Global Human Rights Subcommittee, navigated the bill through debate on Dec. 3 and onto House passage.
PICTURED: Rep. Chris Smith on the House floor Dec. 3, 2019 managing debate of the bill, which included in the 2020 appropriations bill passed in the House Dec. 17 and expected to be passed into law.
“The bill directs the US Government to advocate for increased efforts to address NTDs among international institutions such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and World Bank,” said Smith, who noted the benefits of the deworming, particularly with children.
“The benefits of deworming are immediate and enduring,” Smith said. “Children whose intestinal systems are infested with worms fail to get proper nutrition, and thus suffer from stunting and developmental issues. They are also more susceptible to coinfection from diseases such as tuberculosis. The treatment for worms is simple and cost-effective: drugs can be administered over 1-3 days, and are cheap, costing pennies a treatment. Yet, more than one billion people continue to suffer while cost effective solutions are in sight.”
“What we need to do—and what my bill does—is integrate our USAID deworming programs with our Water, Sanitation and Health (WaSH) programs, coupled with our nutrition interventions,” he said.
The second bill—the TICK Act—creates a “new whole-of-government national strategy to combat Lyme” and other tick borne diseases. It authorizes $150 million in federal funding for Centers of Excellence and important Lyme initiatives at the local level.
“It’s taken 21 years—and over a dozen bills I’ve introduced in Congress beginning with the Lyme Disease Initiative Act of 1998 to get here.” Smith said. “This marks a major victory for hundreds of thousands—especially and including children—who suffer from this horrific disease.”
Smith introduced the TICK Act earlier this year joined by Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN) in the House and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tina Smith (R-MN) in the Senate. As included in the end-of-year bill, the legislation is now named for former Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) who tragically passed away from a tick-borne disease in October.
“The national strategy provision coupled with $150 million for research, prevention and treatment programs will enable additional federal agencies to step up and coordinated their efforts in the fight against Lyme,” said Smith, the co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus. “The new law will open doors to innovative therapies, treatments, better diagnosis and more accurate information for doctors, and their patients with Lyme.
“With a whole-of-government approach, all patients, including those suffering with chronic Lyme will get more answers and hopefully relief from this debilitating disease.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services 2018 Report to Congress, there are approximately 300,000 new cases of tick borne disease each year—with an estimated 40,000 new cases annually in New Jersey alone.