ALS Advocacy

ALS Advocacy
Lou Gehrig's Disease - Motor Neuron Disease - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Thought it had been cured by now? Still no known cause. Still no cure. Still quickly fatal. Still outrageous.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Every now and then I can just hear God's words as one of our beloved friends with ALS arrives at the pearly gates.

Chuck Hummer fought the good fight.  He lasted a long time with ALS with help from his beloved bride and family.  ALS finally won yesterday.  It always does.  But Chuck made a huge difference in lives.  ALS couldn't steal the good that he did.

Almost a decade ago the ALS Association started something called their Virtual Advocacy Community.  Chuck Hummer entered our lives.

http://webla.alsa.org/site/PageServer/?pagename=LA_5_Advocacy_Community.html

Log in and look for OldChuck.  When I first visited that site, I seriously thought that OldChuck was ALSA's shill for their advocacy efforts. He explained and motivated. He wrote beautifully.  He treated people kindly. He was smart. He was the virtual mayor of the VAC and made it a great place for people interested in advocacy.

OC, as I called him, knew a lot.  He had a career in government work and knew the drill (and tricks) for getting funds in DC.  He had started a not-for-profit centered around his beloved Panama Canal, and he knew a lot about not-for-profit management.  And most important of all, he had been an AIDS activist with his son.  He saw that movement finally succeed, but it was too late for his dear son.  He knew much of what it would take for the fight against ALS to succeed.

So we had an awesome little VAC with quite the mayor.  ALSA had a gift.

Eventually he started challenging the status quo of 2006.  He asked questions about the return-on-investment for the big advocacy conference that ALSA held in Washington.  He pressed for bigger requests for funding.  He demanded better inter organizational coordination.  And he knew the rights of people who required accessible rooms at an ALSA-sponsored gathering.  He was pushing and pressing to improve the fight.  It was energizing.  Unfortunately ALSA never engaged in the energized VAC.

He was soon kicked out of the VAC.  Somebody at ALSA pulled out the rule book and managed to silence him.

OC felt so strongly about the cause and advocacy that he managed to sneak back into the VAC by setting up an identity with a grandchild's name.  The Washington Wizards (as he brilliantly called them after his first ejection) soon caught on and booted him again.

OC was my hero.

He was opinionated, but you didn't have to agree with him to be his friend.  ALSA missed out on a great force that could have made the fight so much better.

He was a pioneer in online peer support.  Google for gamboachuck or oldchuck or oldchuckles or grumpyals and you'll see a gentleman who was a godsend of support to hundreds of people with ALS and caregivers.

He blogged and he commented and participated in all kinds of online media.  He was kind and helpful to so many.  And could he ever write.

This morning I saw on Facebook how many people who benefited from his love and mentorship are grieving today.

You were a good egg, OC, and a Double Domer to boot.

How I miss you already.

R




Monday, June 15, 2015

If You Want To Get Something Done...

... give it to a busy person.  That's what my grandmother always said.  She sure got it right.

In the past couple of months, we have seen a remarkable grassroots group of people with ALS and caregivers get traction with the FDA. They are thoughtful. They embrace discourse. They question.  They do their homework.  They study.  They won't back down.  And yes, they are busy.  They are beyond busy because they are in the throes of dealing with ALS.

They have another meeting with the FDA this week.  Below I paste some information that they shared on their Hope Now for ALS Facebook page and their change.org page.

Please follow them, read the material carefully, and act. Sure it's long and you're busy, but you and I aren't that busy.  Thank you for your consideration.  These amazing people with ALS and caregivers about getting things done. They understand urgency. They stare it in the face every day.

It's about time.

___________________________

The FDA has agreed to engage with us on behalf of the PALS community to discuss a path toward getting ALS treatments/drugs into the Accelerated Approval Program. This will require a series of discussions covering a number of discrete topics (surrogate endpoints and relevance of biomarker data, design of a validation process to determine accelerated approval efficacy where evidence of efficacy and safety coming out of a Phase 2 trial exists, etc.) with the goal of defining a method for validating efficacy for drugs/treatments where safety has already been demonstrated. We look forward to engaging with the FDA and taking concrete steps in getting this done. We recognize the urgency that this process has for the existing generation of PALS and will always make that our foremost consideration in moving forward in this process. Our next meeting with FDA is scheduled for June 17th and according to the list of FDA attendees provided by the agency in their invitation, the meeting will include most of the key agency personnel needed to make material progress toward establishing an expedited development and approval pathway for new ALS medicines. According to FDA, the following agency staff will be attending the meeting:
Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)Dr. Richard Moscicki, Deputy CDER Director for Science OperationsDr. John Jenkins, Director of the Office of New Drugs, CDERDr. Billy Dunn, Director of the Division of Neurology Products, CDERDr. Ronald Farkas, Division of Neurology Drug Products, CDERDr. Nicholas Kozauer, Division of Neurology Drug Products, CDER
The objectives of HopeNOWforALS are described below:
• Clearly communicate our sense of urgency regarding the need for rapid development of the expedited pathway,• Establish a framework for achieving Objective No. 1 with weekly meetings over the next 4 to 6 weeks,• Reiterate the ALS patient community position on how FDA should evaluate the potential for drug-related risks versus the potential for benefit in the context of the risks posed by the disease,• Hear FDA’s thoughts and proposals for an expedited pathway and express our own,• Attempt to reach agreement on the major elements of an expedited development and approval pathway for new ALS medicines, including evidentiary requirements that would be considered adequate to support agency acceptance and review of an application for Accelerated Approval before the end of this year.• Set action items for FDA and HopeNOWforALS, • Schedule the next meeting.
Our objectives for this initial meeting are ambitious, and may exceed the FDA’s customary pace of discussions regarding drug development programs; consequently, we are communicating our expectations for the meeting to FDA in advance in hopes that they will come prepared to negotiate a set of initial agreements in good faith, and with a shared sense of urgency. We will know more about our goals for the next meeting after our upcoming meeting on the 17th. 
Because the details of an expedited drug development and approval pathway must also be agreed to by the drug sponsor(s) who will navigate the pathway, it is our intent to bring sponsors who are interested in using an expedited pathway into the process quickly, potentially as early as the third meeting. We anticipate that this involvement will include Genervon in pursuit of an Accelerated Approval for GM604, and we are hopeful that others will elect to collaborate in this process as it moves forward.
We need your help leading up to our June 17th meeting. Please contact the FDA (see below) and your contacts on the Hill. Urge them to ensure that FDA enters this process with a shared sense of urgency and a willingness to fully consider and factor into its regulatory policy and decision-making, the perspectives of the ALS patient community regarding the dire need for a process that allows all PALS the opportunity to access promising new medicines for ALS at the earliest possible point in the learning process, and to participate in the completion of that learning process in a post approval environment, as intended by Congress in FDASIA, enacted in 2012. Please make the critically important point that FDA’s current, inflexible, years-long process for bringing new ALS drugs to the point of approval is failing to meet the dire unmet medical needs of PALS, and needs to be remade into a process where FDA views the patient community as full and equal partners in the making of medical progress against ALS.
In Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) Congress expressed: 
SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that the Food and Drug Administration should apply the accelerated approval and fast track provisions set forth in section 506 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 356), as amended by this section, to help expedite the development and availability to patients of treatments for serious or life threatening diseases or conditions while maintaining safety and effectiveness standards for such treatments.
Congress went on to describe the evidence that could support an Accelerated Approval: 
‘‘(B) EVIDENCE.—The evidence to support that an endpoint is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit under subparagraph (A) may include epidemiological, pathophysiological, therapeutic, pharmacologic, or other evidence developed using biomarkers, for example, or other scientific methods or tools.”
The intent of these provisions was to direct FDA to use its Accelerated Approval authority for disease like ALS, and to make exceedingly clear that the agency did not need to wait for evidence from multiple phases of long, expensive, randomized controlled clinical trials before granting Accelerated Approval. 
We are standing on solid legislative ground with this effort, but to date, FDA has not shown a willingness to use its Accelerated Approval authority as intended by Congress for new drugs intended to treat neurological diseases like ALS. Please weigh in and strongly urge FDA to work with us in good faith, and in accordance with Congressional intent, to bring new medical options to ALS patients as rapidly and flexibly as possible.
We will provide an update after the meeting. 
We're in this together,Jehad Majed (jmajed@mac.com), Matthew Bellina, Nick Grillo (gm6nick@gmail.com), and the Torrino Family
Please email the Dr. Woodcock at the FDA:janet.woodcock@fda.hhs.govand copy these people:druginfo@fda.hhs.govrichard.moscicki@fda.hhs.govwilliam.dunn@fda.hhs.govstephen.ostroff@fda.hhs.govjohn.jenkins@fda.hhs.goveric.bastings@fda.hhs.govronald.farkas@fda.hhs.govnicholas.kozauer@fda.hhs.govbrad_grantz@toomey.senate.govGrace_Stuntz@help.senate.govjosephine_eckert@murray.senate.gov
[WHAT TO SAY]
Start with any opening you choose but please include any of the following that you feel represents your voice:
It is my understanding that you will be meeting with members from HopeNOWforALS on June 17th to discuss a pathway forward for the evaluation of investigational treatments for ALS. I recognize that the FDA -- and particularly the Division of Neurology Products -- has been unwilling to implement the Accelerated Approval Program in the manner intended by Congress and so expressed in the FDASIA of 2012. I am also aware that the ALS patient community has not been given the chance to participate in discussions regarding risk vs. benefit and that those discussions have either been non-existent or differed to large "advocacy organizations" that I feel do not represent my best interests.Over the past 6 months, the ALS patient community has been fighting for Accelerated Approval of Genervon's GM604 and I understand the FDA has denied Genervon's request to discuss this further. As a member of the grassroots movement working to get safe investigational treatments to market, I expect that you will work closely with HopeNOWforALS and make a change from the status quo -- and make that change very soon!
The FDA’s current, inflexible, years-long process for bringing new ALS drugs to market is failing to meet the needs of PALS and needs to be remade into a process where FDA views the patient community as full and equal partners.
Please do not patronize the patient community with information about the Expanded Access Program (Compassionate Use). This program is unable to meet the needs of and entire population of patients with no treatment options. Accelerated Approval was designed for this purpose.
By the FDA’s own admission, "It can take too long for an investigational treatment to definitively demonstrate a clinical benefit and then go through the process of securing FDA approval." On the website, the FDA claims that the 1992 Accelerated Approval Program is a way to speed new drugs to market that treat serious diseases and fill an unmet medical need. If this program isn’t meant to address ALS, then I want to know what are your definitions of “serious” and “unmet medical need"?
Know that I will continue fighting with my last ounce of energy and last breath to help the ALS Community see viable treatment options.