New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer is calling for the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign into law a bill that would allow doctors to treat chronic Lyme disease with long-term antibiotics without falling foul of health regulations. Standard guidelines for Lyme disease treatment deem long-term antibiotics unnecessary and dangerous for the infection, dismissing the idea of ‘chronic Lyme disease’ and, instead, marking it out as a recurrrent infection or attributing symptoms to a different condition.
Senator Schumer is working to change such perceptions and give Lyme disease patients better access to treatment that he says could save lives.
Currently, physicians in the US are wary of prescribing lengthy courses of antibiotics, especially intravenous medications, for persistent Lyme disease as many have been called in front of medical review boards, stripped of their licence to practice medicine, and even jailed or sued for medical malpractice. The reluctance to treat Lyme disease then leads to a dearth of available physicians and patients necessarily resort to ever more desperate measures to manage and eradicate symptoms.
Championing Lyme Disease Measures
Senator Schumer is now asking Governor Cuomo to sign a state bill that passed the Assembly and the Senate earlier this year. Cuomo’s signature would make it lawful for physicians to prescribe antibiotics long-term for Lyme disease.
Schumer has experienced Lyme disease himself, having been bitten by a tick in Dutchess County in 2007. He removed a tick from his body, noticed the bulls-eye rash, sought immediate medical attention and responded well to antibiotic treatment. He recognises, though, that not all cases of Lyme disease are as clear cut or as easily treated.
Many patients don’t even realise that their symptoms are a result of an unnoticed tick bite from several weeks, months, or even years earlier. Symptoms can include arthritis, fever, malaise, cognitive dysfunction, changes in the skin, heart problems, and other diverse effects that may resemble a variety of different conditions and diseases.
Doxycycline for Lyme Disease
Treatment for Lyme disease typically comprises a two-week course of doxycycline. This antibiotic has, however, recently been the subject of some controversy as key manufacturers stopped producing the drug, leading to a price spike that has persisted even as supply increased. The current expense of doxycycline means that many people and animals have lost access to the treatment, having to use less expensive, and arguably less effective, medications.
Schumer is not only pushing to get the cost of doxycycline lowered, but also to increase research into Lyme disease, with better funding at the federal level. To do this, the Federal Agriculture and Risk Management Act this year determined that Lyme disease could be included in the remit of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. This would help help facilitate funding for research into Lyme disease surveillance, prevention, testing and vaccination, as well as such measures for other tick-borne diseases.
US Senate elections took place today, November 4th, and the Senate returns November 12th, whereupon federal funding will be decided for Lyme disease measures.