Legislation to improve the treatment of Lyme disease is on the horizon in Pennsylvania. A new bill would make it easier for patients to receive treatment for their long-term Lyme disease symptoms and cover the costs.
SB 1188, which passed the Senate floor and is now passing the House, proposes improved diagnostic techniques and increased medical insurance coverage of Lyme disease treatments.
Lyme disease was detected in 32% of deer ticks tested in the state, according to the Tick Research Lab at the University of East Stroudsburg. Suggesting an upward trend in Lyme disease prevalence, DEP collected twice as many deer tick nymphs in 2021 compared to 2020.
In 2018, the DOH estimated 119,000 cases in the state, of which 35% were expected to develop long-term symptoms.
In a 2020 study from Pennsylvania, one-third of Lyme disease patients reported delayed treatment, increasing the risk of long-term symptoms known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). ).
According to a Johns Hopkins study, common symptoms of PTLDS include high levels of fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, trouble sleeping, and depression.
Medical schools differ on the treatment of Lyme disease. One of the two major medical societies determining diagnostic and treatment guidelines, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), recommends a short-term antibiotic regimen, usually 14 to 21 days.
Physicians practicing the IDSA model treat the short-term symptoms of Lyme disease, not the long-term chronic symptoms. Doctors recommend a course of short-term antibiotics as the default treatment, but many patients suffer from persistent bacterial infection.
There are more than 700 peer-reviewed medical articles that support evidence for the persistence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases despite short-term antibiotic therapy.
The International Society of Lyme and Related Diseases (ILADS) takes a different approach. ILADS physicians approach Lyme disease as a multi-symptom illness with a wide range of symptoms and/or signs that persist for at least 6 months.
Advocates for the legislation, such as the PA Lyme Resource Network, are pushing for the ability to provide treatment options to patients with PTLDS who cannot pay out of pocket. The organization also hopes the legislation will prioritize ILADS treatment in the medical community.
As a recent step towards recognizing the complicated nature of Lyme disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) expanded treatment codes in January 2022, adding specifications to the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and of his potential co-infections.
If passed, SB 1188 would allow licensed physicians to treat patients with PTLDS and require insurance companies to cover treatments.
According to PA Lyme, there is a financial incentive to effectively treat Lyme conception with long-term antibiotics. Short-term treatment is estimated to be worth $1,957, while long-term medical costs for a chronic lyme patient are valued at $24,198 for the period 2002-2012.
Several states have passed or are reviewing similar legislation to require insurance companies to cover longer-term therapies for Lyme disease and co-infections, according to PA Lyme.
Passing this legislation would mean financial savings and better health outcomes for the approximately 40,000 Pennsylvanians who suffer from chronic symptoms each year.