NYC, New York, (January 31st, 2002)-- Lyme disease patients from across the country will be traveling to NYC to attend a New York State Assembly Committee hearing which impacts their access to medical care. It will focus on legal issues surrounding the operation of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), the license enforcement branch of the NYS Department of Health. Lyme disease patients have charged the OPMC with harassing physicians who treat chronic Lyme disease.
Patients claim that the OPMC has investigated the majority of physicians in New York State willing to diagnose and treat chronic Lyme disease with more than the standard 4 weeks of treatment. In so doing, patients claim, the OPMC is inappropriately using its power to take sides in a scientific controversy.
A prior hearing on this Lyme disease controversy in November in Albany drew almost 500 Lyme disease patients. It focused exclusively on the scientific controversy surrounding Lyme disease. Evidence from that hearing led Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, to state "there is a substantial body of highly qualified medical support for the proposition that Lyme disease can persist as a chronic condition and that long-term antibiotic treatment can be appropriate."
Groups of patients with other illnesses who have also complained of inappropriate use of OPMC power are expected to attend the hearing as well. Like the Lyme disease patients, these patients have called for the Assembly to examine the role of due process in physician discipline hearings.
Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States, and New York State has the highest number of reported cases. Some of the early stage characteristics may include flu like symptoms, skin rashes or joint inflammation. Diagnosis can be difficult, often leading to delayed treatment, which can result in chronic or long-term central nervous system, cardiac, ophthalmologic and other systemic manifestations.
The hearing will take place before the Assembly Committees on Health, Higher Education and Codes at 10am on January 31st at 250 Broadway, Room 1923, New York City.
For further information please contact Ellen Lubarsky at 212-799-2554