WASHINGTON, DC (May 25, 2010) – Congressmen Chris Gibson’s legislation to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, has been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee has agreed to include those provisions in a broader bill to strengthen medical research and innovation.
The Tick-borne Disease Research Transparency and Accountability Act will be included in the 21stCentury Cures Act, which expands federal programs designed to speed the development and approval of disease treatments and cures.
“This is outstanding news for Upstate New York and for the more than 300,000 Americans suffering from Lyme disease and a host of related illnesses like babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” said Congressman Gibson. “Ticks are an increasingly dangerous presence in our communities, causing a litany of health problems that often go untreated or undetected. This situation is exacerbated by the dated treatment guidelines in use by the Centers for Disease Control and a lack of coordinated research by federal regulators, both of which have kept patients waiting for treatments and left them in the lurch financially when insurers refuse to pay for healthcare costs. Our bill will bring relief to a long-suffering population, especially our chronic Lyme sufferers.”
The provisions on tick-borne illnesses in the 21st Century Cures Act create an interagency working group consisting of federal agencies and non-federal partners, including experienced Lyme physicians and patient advocates with a broad spectrum of scientific viewpoints. The working group is tasked with ensuring coordination among federal agencies like the NIH and CDC to maximize research priorities.
The bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to consult with the working group to submit a strategic plan to Congress within three years that includes benchmarks to measure progress. The plan must include a proposal for improving outcomes of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, including progress related to chronic or persistent symptoms, infections, and co-infections.
Last year, Congressman Gibson’s Tick-borne Disease Research Transparency and Accountability Act became the first standalone bill addressing Lyme disease to pass the House of Representatives. However, the bipartisan bill was not brought to a vote in the Senate, necessitating its reintroduction this year and leading to its inclusion as part of 21st Century Cures.
In the current session of Congress, the bill’s original cosponsors include several Members of Congress from areas hit hard by Lyme disease: Lou Barletta (PA-11), Joe Courtney (CT-2), John Katko (NY-24), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Chris Smith (NJ-4), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Peter Welch (VT), Rob Wittman (VA-1), and Lee Zeldin (NY-1).
“I want to thank our partners in the House, particularly my colleagues here in New York—John Katko, Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin and Sean Patrick Maloney—for their staunch support of moving this forward,” said Congressman Gibson. “I also want to thank those throughout the Lyme community, especially the many sufferers who have generously shared their time, talents, and resources to advance these commonsense, patient-oriented reforms. We are listening and taking action, and we will continue our fight to see that our provisions are signed into law and implemented by federal agencies without delay.”