Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Hudson) announced that legislation she authored, which would allow physicians to prescribe treatment on an individual basis to their patients with symptoms of chronic Lyme disease, including but not limited to the administration of antibiotic care lasting longer than four weeks, has passed the Assembly and the Senate (A.7558-B). The legislation garnered bipartisan support and unanimously passed in the Assembly.

“The Hudson Valley has seen cases of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases reach crisis proportion in recent years, yet the course of treatment remains mired in controversy,” said Assemblymember Barrett. “Patients with Lyme or other tick-borne illness deserve the best course of care possible. This bill would allow doctors the discretion to prescribe vital, antibiotics for a period of time beyond their traditional use, when they determine that such care is in the best interest of their patients, without risk of censure.”

The Hudson Valley has become the epicenter of the Lyme disease epidemic in the Northeastern United States. Based on New York State Department of Health figures, 50,000 people contracted Lyme disease in 2012 alone. In the case of Lyme disease, the practice of medicine has not kept pace with the research advances on the biological agents responsible for the disease symptom. Patients with Lyme disease should have the same rights as those with other diseases. They must have the right to be seen and treated by the practitioner of their choice, to be informed that there are differing professional judgments about the appropriate care for Lyme disease, and to participate in the choice of treatment as it pertains to their circumstance and preference. The rights of the patient hinge upon the ability of the practitioner to act in the best interest of the patient without fear of reprisal from the professional discipline system when more than one set of guidelines exists.

“I applaud the hard work of the NY State Assembly and Senate on passing a Lyme bill that protects patients and gives physicians the right to diagnose and treat patients according to their best medical judgment,” said Dr. Richard Horowitz, author of Why Can’t I Get Better?: Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease. “Lyme disease is the number one vector-borne epidemic spreading worldwide, and is endemic in NY State. The passage of this bill will ensure better and more appropriate access to health care for those who are chronically afflicted with Lyme and associated tick-borne diseases.”

“We are grateful to the NYS Assembly and Senate for passing this bill, which will provide patients and physicians relief. While in the face of unsettled science, it is unconscionable that unlike other illness, so many sick Lyme disease patients have suffered due to lack of individualized treatment,” said Jill Auerbach, Chairwoman of the Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association. “The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) overstepped its bounds by harassment of the dedicated physicians who compassionately treated these most complicated discarded patients, who were left by others to suffer. This should relieve fears that has understandably caused other physicians reluctance in treating as they believe is correct when patients are still ill. How fortunate we are to have Assemblymember Barrett in Albany working for us.”

In addition to passing legislation, Assemblymember Barrett authored and passed a resolution proclaiming May 2014 as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme Disease Awareness Month provided an opportunity to focus on these complex illnesses, to provide information on and raise public awareness of its causes, effects, and treatments, and to underscore important education and research efforts surrounding Lyme and tick-borne diseases.