Governor M. Jodi Rell today was joined by Lyme disease patients, their advocates and physicians at a ceremonial bill signing of a new law that allows doctors to prescribe long-term antibiotics in the treatment of persistent Lyme disease – outside of standard guidelines – without fear of sanctions from state health regulators if the patient’s clinical diagnosis of the tick-borne disease and treatment have been documented by a licensed physician.
The disease gets its name from the shoreline town of Lyme, Connecticut, where in 1975 a cluster of children and adults there experienced uncommon arthritic symptoms caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected deer ticks. Symptoms include a rash, fatigue, headache, fever, and achy muscles and joints. Later symptoms may include arthritis, neurological problems, and heart problems.
“We know the ravages of this illness are not specific to just our state. The day after I signed this bill into law, I heard from Lyme disease sufferers around the country,” Governor Rell said during a ceremony in Brookfield. “They were jubilant, they were relieved. They wanted to make sure that we understood Connecticut was doing right by Lyme disease patients and their doctors.
“We do understand. We understand this disease can shatter lives. We understand it can rob someone of their livelihood. We understand it can alter someone’s future forever,” Governor Rell said. “It is a very complex disease that can affect people differently. We recognize that Lyme disease patients must have the freedom to choose which treatment best meets their needs.”
House Bill 6200, which gained broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, was prompted by an ongoing debate in the medical community. Some health organizations have questioned the existence of chronic Lyme disease and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has cautioned against the long-term use of antibiotics. Some physicians were hesitant to treat patients outside the IDSA guidelines because of potential reprimands from medical boards and insurance companies. The Governor stressed, however, that the new law does not protect any doctor who provides substandard care.