Lyme Expert Defends North Carolina Infection Expert, Blasts AP for Many Errors and Takes On Drs. Shapiro and Mead
To the Associated Press,
The story entitled "Doctor Disciplined over Lyme Disease Treatment" (4/14/06) has numerous inaccuracies. First, the title makes it sound like Dr. Jemsek has already been convicted of some crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the story finally acknowledges in the fourth paragraph. By then the casual reader has been totally misled.
The story quotes Dr. Paul Mead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who makes comments about the treatment of chronic Lyme disease. Dr. Mead is a research epidemiologist at the CDC. He is not involved in direct patient care, and he has no expertise in the clinical management of patients with chronic Lyme disease. His comments are irrelevant to the thousands of patients suffering from chronic Lyme disease, and his uninformed clinical views are irrelevant to Dr. Jemsek's case.
The story also quotes Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a pediatric researcher from Yale University who helped formulate the now-obsolete Lyme guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Dr, Shapiro makes another one of his nihilistic comments for which he is notorious:
"It's not that the people diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease don't have problems," he said. "It's that chronic Lyme disease is not the problem."
Over the past decade, it has become obvious that a major problem for people with chronic Lyme disease is Dr. Shapiro himself, who has used his stature as a university professor to spread misinformation about Lyme disease around the country. Sadly there are gullible reporters who blindly print his dismissive statements while ignoring the immense problems with chronic Lyme disease, which confers disability similar to congestive heart failure. Dr. Jemsek is trying to solve those problems. Dr. Shapiro is making them worse.
A story like this one should have included comments from more enlightened physician groups such as the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS, www.ilads.org) and from patient advocacy groups such as the national Lyme Disease Association (LDA, www.lymediseaseassociation.org). Let's hope that the Associated Press does a better job next time.
Raphael Stricker, MD