STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NON PROFIT LYME DISEASE ASSOCIATION, INC. ON THE IDSA GUIDELINES PANEL DECISION 4-22-10
We are not surprised by the conclusions reached by the IDSA review panel but are certainly disappointed. It is certainly suspect that in considering a disease with numbers on the rise (250% increase from 1993-2008), one which is so highly controversial and with unsettled and “undone” science, that the panel would vote “lockstep” (8-0) except for one dissenting vote to uphold all of the original recommendations. The national Lyme disease Association (LDA) and its 35 associated organizations publicly expressed their concerns about bias in the panel selection throughout the process, including the selection of the chair, who is a former president of the IDSA, and the pronounced lack of community treating physicians.
We note with interest that IDSA separated out the only real area of contention among its panel, a 4-4 vote, and because it did not fit the required voting process, IDSA alleged that this was NOT a recommendation they needed to review, but only a statement in their Guidelines executive summary that the Attorney General asked them to review. It is a crucial statement on testing, the essence of which appears throughout the guidelines and is most often used by doctors and insurers to prevent patients receiving diagnosis and treatment. The panel’s apparently improper first vote on this issue was uncovered by a FOIA, (freedom of information act) on the panel voting process. The vote was 4-4, not meeting the supermajority required to pass it, so they characterized the testing issue as a non recommendation, which they claim, does not require a supermajority.
The IDSA’s empty “political” rhetoric, adherence to these guidelines is only voluntary, certainly we support clinical judgment, is belied by their statement “Based on current research for patients with non specific symptoms that may be seen in may illnesses…it would be a deviation from “best fit” [association between illness and likely diagnosis established by medical evidence] to attribute such symptoms to Lyme disease in the absence of more specific clinical features or laboratory results…All Lyme disease clinical findings including erythema migrans can be seen in diseases other than Lyme…It would thus be clinically imprudent to make this diagnosis of Lyme disease using these non specific findings alone.”
The IDSA’s position at the onset of this investigation and settlement process has been that the Attorney General of Connecticut’s investigation was interfering in medical practice rather than the guidelines formation process. To apply logic to their way of thinking, any changes in the Guidelines would admit wrongdoing on their part and set a precedent for future government actions in creation and development of their many guidelines. So instead, the IDSA panel upheld all the recommendations, failed to provide after each recommendation the specific references that were considered and used to justify upholding each recommendation (the resources are lumped at the end of the paper). We consider it striking that they provides lists of items that need to be considered in the “next” upgrade of their guidelines, thereby relieving themselves of responsibility of acknowledging that changes are needed to these current guidelines.
The IDSA admits to receiving a large volume of case reports & case series that attested to “PERCEIVED” clinical improvement with long term treatment. One would assume that in most cases, doctors were perceiving the improvement in patients, and thus their years of clinical judgment would carry significant weight. Yet the IDSA excluded all of that evidence as not justified. IDSA also discounted the controlled studies which did indicate improvement after long term antibiotics
Patients cannot wait for the entrenched medical establishment to address the problems with this disease. They need treatment and relief now. The ratification of these guidelines by IDSA becomes another nail in the coffin for those afflicted with Lyme disease. We call upon the Attorney General of Connecticut to examine the entire process to determine compliance with his stated requirements and to take further action should grounds be found to do so.