Torrey vs. IDSA/Insurers Lawsuit Update: Awaiting Ruling

Gavel representing lawsuitCourthouse News Service (Cameron Langford) 09.07.2023, published an update on the 5th Circuit court case dealing with claims of patients against the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). In 2017, Lisa Torrey and 27 other people suffering from Lyme disease sued the IDSA, seven health insurance companies, and several medical doctors in a Texas federal court (RICO Act and antitrust claims). This case has undergone several appeals. US District Judge Robert Schroeder dismissed the antitrust claims and the allegations of misrepresentation on the basis that plaintiffs could not win on their “misrepresentation claims” because the statements in IDSA’s guidelines were presented as “medical opinions,” not “facts,” indicating that medical care providers were not held to these “opinions” and were capable of making their own medical recommendations for patients. 

The plaintiffs claim that several major health insurers paid IDSA-affiliated doctors to establish treatment guidelines that determine Lyme disease could be treated with 28 days of antibiotics, because treatment costs for insurers were “too expensive” prior to these guidelines being established. Patients also claim that due to the IDSA published guidelines, they had trouble accessing doctors who would treat them. Doctors that had criticized these restrictive guidelines or cared for patients outside of the restrictive guidelines were referred to state medical boards by IDSA and insurers for investigation. More than 50 doctors were subject to investigations, discipline, or lost their medical licenses for criticizing the IDSA guidelines or treating outside of the guidelines.

The plaintiff’s attorney argued that her clients’ physicians are not permitted to use independent medical judgment on the proper way to treat chronic Lyme disease because of the “substantial power and influence” the IDSA has in dictating how physicians may treat Lyme patients. She further argued that the fact that more than 12 states in the US have passed legislation to protect a physicians’ ability to prescribe long-term Lyme treatment provides evidence to demonstrate that doctors are bound by these restrictive guidelines.

US Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan is stated to be leaning towards a dismissal of the lawsuit because he believes “we can’t have lawsuits against people who are debating the scientific question in a forum,” however no ruling has yet been made.

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