The Lyme Disease Conspiracy
by Joseph J. Burrascano, Jr., M.D.
Reprinted from Senate Committee Hearing on Lyme Disease, August 5, 1993
There is a core group of university-based Lyme disease researchers and physicians whose opinions carry a great deal of weight. Unfortunately many of them act unscientifically and unethically. They adhere to outdated, self-serving views and attempt to personally discredit those whose opinions differ from their own. They exert strong ethically questionable influence on medical journals, which enables them to publish and promote articles that are badly flawed. They work with government agencies to bias the agenda of consensus meetings, and have worked to exclude from these meetings and scientific seminars those with alternate opinions. They behave this way for reasons of personal or professional gain, and are involved in obvious conflicts of interest. This group promotes the idea that Lyme is a simple, rare illness that is easy to avoid, difficult to acquire, simple to diagnose, and easily treated and cured with 30 days or less of antibiotics.
The truth is that Lyme is the fastest growing infectious illness in this country after AIDS, with a cost to society measured in the billions of dollars. It can be acquired by anyone who goes outdoors, very often goes undiagnosed for months, years, or forever in some patients, and can render a patient chronically ill and even totally disabled despite what this core group refers to as "adequate" therapy. There have been deaths from Lyme disease.
They feel that when the patient fails to respond to their treatment regimens it is because the patient developed what they named "the post Lyme syndrome". They claim that this is not an infectious problem, but a rheumatologic or arthritic malady due to activation of the immune system.
The fact is, this cannot be related to any consistent abnormality other than persistent infection. As further proof, vaccinated animals whose immune system has been activated by Lyme have never developed this syndrome. On the other hand, there is proof that persistent infection can exist in these patients because the one month treatment did not eradicate the infection.
Indeed, many chronically ill patients, whom these physicians dismissed, have gone on to respond positively and even recover, when additional antibiotics are given.
It is interesting that these individuals who promote this so called "post-Lyme syndrome" as a form of arthritis, depend on funding from arthritis groups and agencies to earn their livelihood. Some of them are known to have received large consulting fees from insurance companies to advise them to curtail coverage for any antibiotic therapy beyond this arbitrary 30-day cutoff, even if the patient will suffer. This is despite the fact that additional therapy may be beneficial, and despite the fact that such practices never occur in treating other diseases.
Following the lead of this group of physicians, a few state health departments have even begun to investigate, in a very threatening way, physicians who have more liberal views on Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment than they do. Indeed, I must confess that I feel that I am taking a large personal risk here today by publicly stating these views, for fear that I may suffer some negative repercussions, despite the fact that many hundreds of physicians and many thousands of patients all over the world agree with what I am saying here. Because of this bias by this inner circle, Lyme disease is both underdiagnosed and undertreated, to the great detriment to many of our citizens. Let me address these points in more detail.
Some Lyme patients have had to see, as many as 42 different physicians often over several years, and at tremendous cost, before being properly diagnosed. Unfortunately, the disease was left to progress during that time, and patients were left forever ill, for by that time, their illness could not be cured. Even more disturbing, these hard line physicians have tried to dismiss these patients as having "Lyme Hysteria" and tried to claim they all were suffering from psychiatric problems!
The very existence of hundreds of Lyme support groups in this country, and the tens of thousands of dissatisfied, mistreated and ill patients whom these groups represent, underscores the many problems that exist out in the real world of Lyme disease. I ask and plead with you to hear their voices, listen to their stories, and work in an honest and unbiased way to help and protect the many Americans whose health is at risk from what now has become a political disease.
By: Joseph J. Burrascano, Jr., M.D.