By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Nearly five years ago a 16 year-old high school football star suffering from back pains went to a Roanoke, Va. clinic where he was injected with a steroid.
About a month later and a week after starring in a game for Cave Spring High School, Zac Foutz was completely incapacitated after being hit with excruciating pain and high sensitivity to light. On Oct. 28, 2012 he was admitted to a local hospital suffering from fungal meningitis.
Hit with powerful antifungal medications, Foutz remained hospitalized for more than two weeks.
Now Zac has recovered and is listed as a 250 6'4'' tight end at Liberty University.
But that is a small part of the story.
Zac's illness motivated his father, Ben, a medical supply salesman, to become deeply involved in efforts to see that what happened to Zac and more than 750 other victims of the 2012 outbreak never happens again. As Ben Foutz noted, Virginia was particularly hard hit
Federal officials say some 758 patients were sickened and 76 died as a result of being injected with fungus riddled steroids from a Framingham, Mass. drug compounder.
Working with Republican U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, who represents a neighboring district, Ben Foutz followed developments in congress, including a 2012 congressional hearing in which Griffith made a specific reference to Zac and his illness.
Eventually a bill tightening regulation of drug compounders like the New England Compounding Center was passed and then signed into law by then President Obama.
Griffith hailed the passage and even took some credit, saying that the final bill was based on a bill he filed.
For that reason Foutz said he was taken aback and angry when he learned last week that Griffith had just filed "a very flawed" bill that would eliminate a key provision of the 2013 law.
The Griffith bill, strongly backed by a national association of drug compounders, would eliminate a requirement that drug compounders have patient specific prescriptions for each and every drug they compound.
"I will admit my bias," Foutz said in an email, "I am the father of a victim. I am emotionally attached to this issue."
"I want people in our great country to get the medication they need, but I expect those medications to be safe, effective and regulated."
Foutz said that when he spoke to Griffith, the representative told him that he now felt the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was preventing local drug compounders from providing needed drugs and that regulation of drug compounders should be left to state regulatory boards.
At the 2012 hearing, Griffith was one of several committee members to charge the FDA with failing in its duty to regulate drug compounders.
"Now he feels the FDA has too much authority," Foutz wrote.
He said that when he pushed Griffith for the reason he reversed himself, Griffith said that he didn't have the bill in front of him and would have to get back to him later.
Foutz is still waiting.