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No changes to Lyme disease treatment

/ Source: The Associated Press

Guidelines for treating Lyme disease are valid and do not need to be changed, according to a report issued Thursday by a review panel appointed to settle an investigation by Connecticut's attorney general.

Lyme disease patients had criticized the Infectious Diseases Society of America because the group's 2006 guidelines said there was no evidence that chronic Lyme disease exists or that long-term antibiotic treatment is effective.

The medical group says it has never been proven whether patients suffering long-term problems have the tick-borne disease or something else, but it agreed to have its guidelines reviewed to end an investigation by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. He said some of the authors had conflicts of interest and that they didn't consider some medical opinions and evidence.

Richard Whitley, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told reporters on a conference call Thursday that the committee substantiated that there were no conflicts of interest.

"I think the attorney general was misguided by the activists presenting their own opinions," he said. "We spent an immense amount of time trying to suit his needs and those of his supporters," he said.

Blumenthal said his office is reviewing the panel's reassessment of the 2006 guidelines "to determine whether the IDSA fulfilled the requirements of our settlement."

In its report, the review panel of doctors and scientists unanimously endorsed the guidelines. The guidance was based on the best evidence at the time and is supported by evidence published since then, the panel said.

"No changes or revisions to the 2006 Lyme guidelines are necessary at this time," the panel said.

Among its conclusions, the panel said clinical trials for extended antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease — usually given intravenously — are unproven and potentially dangerous. Only high-quality controlled clinical trial data that demonstrate benefits and safety will be enough to change the current recommendations, the panel said.

Lyme disease, which can be hard to diagnose with its vague, flu-like symptoms, is known by a round, red rash. Usually, it's easily cured with a few weeks of antibiotics. Those not promptly treated can develop arthritis, meningitis and other serious illnesses.

About 20,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the U.S., mostly in the Northeast, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Connecticut leads the nation in reported cases and has been a battleground in the national debate over treatment. Lyme disease is named after the Connecticut town of Lyme, where the illness was first discovered in 1975.

Whitley said the 2006 guidelines will be updated in about two years.