To the Editor:
The letter applauding the Lyme disease bill ("On Lyme Disease Awareness Bill," Connection, March 20-26, 2013) may make its advocacy group happy, but does not live up to what Virginians deserve. And while well intended, this solution is simplistic and rife with potential for confusion and dangerous consequences. Simply, it requires that physicians give patients a piece of paper that states that Lyme disease lab tests may not be accurate. It mandates that this be done for five years, regardless of changes and accuracy of new tests as they become available. This was not a solution the medical community supported and the four physician legislators at the GA voted against this bill. Many lab tests are not precise and need to be interpreted carefully, with an awareness of what is being evaluated. Giving someone a piece of paper will do more to confuse than enlighten and may delay correct diagnosis, create an inappropriate demand for dangerous treatments, and open the door for an untrained and unlicensed legislature to further codify mandates that alter scientifically developed medical care and to try to impose themselves on the patient-physician relationship. It is unfortunate that this prevented them accepting a substitute bill that missioned our public health infrastructure with increasing professional and citizen awareness, education and on-line resources about Lyme disease, a much more fruitful and logical alternative.
This law is a “victory” for an advocacy group and their sympathetic legislators who want to do something to help, but it has limited benefit with a significant downside. Lyme disease is not a new problem and will continue to be an issue for years to come. Education, research and a better approach to controlling the vectors that spread disease are what need the focus and the support of our legislators.
Russell C. Libby, M.D., F.A.A.P.
President, Medical Society of Virginia