The Poughkeepsie Journal is cranking out more online accusations about the IDSA, the CDC, and any two physicians or scientists who happen to know each other. But, 1) it’s shopworn material; Stricker and Johnson were throwing the same mud a couple of years ago, and 2) it’s Mickey Mouse stuff effectively answered by the same federal government the Journal queried in the first place.
According to the PJ’s agitated Lyme disease advocate and “victim”, Mary Beth Pfeiffer:
“Internal emails show a close relationship between federal officials who oversee Lyme disease policy and a core group of researchers that has received government grants and written treatment guidelines. As a result, physicians and scientists with opposing views on Lyme disease believe they have marginalized in the debate. They think the Lyme spirochete might sometimes survive antibiotic treatment, counter to what the guidelines state.”
She provides several “examples of connections” between NIH, CDC, and various extramural scientists—all culled from email traffic FOIA’ed years ago by another agitated conspiracy monger, Kris Newby, of the sci-fi docudrama, “Under Our Skin.” But the emails don’t seem very damning when federal overseers write back noting that the various “examples of connections,” are one of the following:
“action was proper,” “participation was sanctioned,” “employees may co-author with [extramural] scientists,” “expressing an opinion…does not indicate favoritism,” “CDC is willing to consider alternate views if they meeting scientific standards…”
As I mentioned, this is the same old mud tossed around by earlier Lyme activists and conspiracy theorists. Back then, the accusations were shot down with a long journal article, some of which is noted below:
Johnson [CALDA] and Stricker [LLMD] published an opinion piece in the Journal of Medical Ethics presenting their perspective on the 2008 agreement between the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Connecticut Attorney General with regard to the 2006 IDSA treatment guideline for Lyme disease. Their writings indicate that these authors hold unconventional views of a relatively common tick-transmitted bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that their opinions would clash with the IDSA’s evidence-based guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. Their allegations of conflict of interest against the IDSA resemble those made against the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2000, which were found to be baseless. It is the responsibility of all physicians and medical scientists to stand up to antiscientific, baseless and unethical attacks on those who support an evidence-based approach to caring for patients.
By contrast, it is possible to imagine the repercussions of the IDSA Lyme disease guidelines on the economic wellbeing of some healthcare providers who specialise in ‘chronic Lyme disease’ and favour indefinite treatment. In addition to direct patient care services, these providers also have the opportunity to profit by providing intra-venous treatment or from their associations with intravenous infusion companies. It has been reported that several ‘chronic Lyme disease’ healthcare providers were disciplined by their state medical boards for receiving payments or conspiring with intravenous infusion companies. One ‘chronic Lyme disease’ healthcare provider, who practises in a state in which Lyme disease is not endemic, is reported to have collected, in the year 2005 alone, US$6 million from a single health insurance company.
The allegations of conflicts of interest against the IDSA panel resemble those made against the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC by the ‘chronic Lyme disease’ activist groups and their supporters in 2000. A complete and detailed investigation by the United States General Accounting Office found such allegations to be baseless.
(Auwaerter PG, et al. Scientific evidence and best patient care practices should guide the ethics of Lyme disease activism. J Med Ethics. 2011 Feb;37(2):68-73.)
In addition, a second journal article noted the unethical and illegal behaviors of a number of so-called “Lyme literate” MDs who prey on the desperate and the ignorant, and who are, in turn, promoted and protected by various self-styled Lyme advocacy groups.
Support groups for Lyme disease originated as information sources for patients and the public. Many have devolved into partisan organisations, promoting unproven therapies and the clinical services of their LLMD advisers. Their leaders lobby for legislation to promote their perception of chronic Lyme disease and to protect LLMDs from licensing boards, and they work to raise defence funds for those who face legal complaints. Activists have organised their own scientific meetings, published their own journal, and funded research by LLMDs. All this activity has led to the creation of a cadre of doctors and activists with their own institutions, research, and conferences, a dedicated pool of patients, and unorthodox, alternative views of microbiology, immunology, and pharmacology.
(Auwaerter PG, et al. Antiscience and ethical concerns associated with advocacy of Lyme disease. Lancet Infect Dis. 2011 Sep;11(9):713-9.)
Such questionable behavior by Lyme activists and docs also has been reported in Forbes magazine and the quackery website, Quackwatch.Com. If the Poughkeepsie Journal is looking for villains and scandal they need look no farther than Pfeiffer’s frequently quoted experts and activist confidants.
Lastly, let’s not forget that the IDSA treatment guidelines for Lyme disease are not obscure recommendations concocted by a small cadre of sinister people. They are evidence-based, peer-reviewed recommendations (emphasis on “recommendations”), which are followed by 16 other countries and professional societies.