Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial Board
With precious time remaining, state senators must see the wisdom of joining their Assembly colleagues in helping those suffering from Lyme disease but, in some cases, can’t even get help from their doctors.
The situation is outrageous; it can be fixed.
The state Assembly, in fact, has passed a bill that would empower physicians to prescribe long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient with symptoms of chronic Lyme disease. But the bill has not yet cleared the Senate Health Committee, part of the process to get it to full-floor vote. The chairman of that committee, Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, Nassau County, must see the wisdom of taking prompt action. Two local senators — Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and William Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson — also serve on that committee and should use their influence to see this legislation get through the process.
This bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly and, about a decade ago, legislation with similar intent made it through both legislative chambers but was vetoed by then-Gov. George Pataki.
Lyme patients deserve far more support. Many of these patients have been dealing with serious health problems, including damage to the nervous system.
Specifically, the bill — sponsored by Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, in the Assembly and being sponsored by Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, in the Senate — would halt the stifling scenario of having physicians face disciplinary actions from the state for treating patients who show symptoms of Lyme disease but test negative. As Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard N. Gottfried noted during the passage of the bill in the Assembly, “Lyme is an extremely complex illness to test for, and symptoms vary among patients.”
Despite repeated pleas, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reluctant to sanction more aggressive treatments for chronic Lyme disease. But it’s become perfectly clear that doctors should be given more leeway to, in consultation with their patients, make medical judgments without fear of an unwarranted investigation by insurers and licensing boards.
The state must take these final steps on behalf of suffering patients who need not only reasons to hope but doctors freed to carry out their work.