Watch out before accepting diagnosis and treatment, says one medical professional

A new commentary published online in The FASEB Journal argues that patients should be diligent and demand proof of safety and benefit before beginning any treatment regimen for chronic pain, as some treatments have very little scientific evidence that they actually alleviate the conditions for which they are prescribed.

In the article, Phillip J. Baker, Ph.D., Executive Director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF), dispels myths surrounding chronic Lyme disease, using it as an example of why patients should ensure that diagnostic and treatment tools are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and not just recommended by other patients and physicians.

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“Despite repeated warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease often is based on the false results of non-standard test procedures, not approved by the FDA,” said Baker. “This is inexcusable since 46 FDA-approved tests are available and used routinely by various state public health laboratories. A false diagnosis can result in patients being placed on prolonged antibiotic therapy or some other unproven and potentially harmful remedy.”

Lyme disease (LD) is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by deer ticks. An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe. It can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. Lyme disease is not contagious from an affected person to someone else.

Baker also says that before agreeing to undergo any treatment regimen for chronic pain, patients should ask their physician to provide results from published, placebo-controlled studies proving that the proposed remedy is both beneficial and safe. Testimonials by previously treated patients – regardless of the number – are not sufficient proof of benefit and safety. Unapproved and undocumented treatments are usually not covered by health insurance and therefore result in a huge financial burden to the patient. Chronic Lyme disease must be considered as part of a broad-based, multidisciplinary effort to understand the cause and treatment of chronic pain in general as outlined by the Institute of Medicine’s report, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.”

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“When doctors don’t know what’s causing a patient to experience chronic pain, desperation can set in,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “That desperation, however, is no excuse for pushing the boundaries of the Hippocratic Oath by diagnosing a patient with a poorly defined health condition, like chronic Lyme disease, for which the only remedies are unproven and may only cause more harm.”

According to the ALDF, if you think you have LD symptoms you should see your physician immediately. The expanding rash (EM), which may occur in up to 90% of the reported cases, is a specific feature of LD, and treatment should begin immediately.

Even in the absence of an EM rash, diagnosis of early LD should be made on the basis of symptoms and evidence of a tick bite, not blood tests, which can often give false results if performed in the first month after initial infection (later on, the tests are more reliable).

If early symptoms are undetected or ignored, you may develop more severe symptoms weeks, months or perhaps years after you were infected. In this case, the CDC recommends using the ELISA and Western-blot blood tests to determine whether you are infected.

You only have 3 years to file a claim.

It's important that you start the process as soon as possible.
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