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Legislature seeks to broaden Lyme disease treatment

ALBANY — A bill that would encourage more and better ways of treating Lyme disease is progressing as the State Legislature enters the end of its 2014 session.

The Senate released a report Wednesday that calls for a state action plan to increase research and education about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. More than 450 new cases of Lyme disease have been reported statewide so far this year.

 “Lyme disease continues its devastating march through our state’s communities and poses a serious public health threat,” Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said in a news release. “Our Task Force has worked closely with experts to begin setting a course the state can use to research, prevent, and treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.”

The report was released as a Senate bill goes to the Assembly on Thursday that would provide more latitude for health care professionals to try new and varied treatments. The bill would make sure the health care workers wouldn’t face investigations for trying methods that aren’t “universally accepted by the medical community.”

The bill would have the state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct “maintain a flexible, case-specific, investigations policy” which wouldn’t limit options available to patients.

“I have listened to heart-wrenching stories from my constituents who are living with – and struggling with – Lyme disease and the serious physical, emotional, psychological and financial devastation that it has caused them and their families,” said Sen. Kathy Marchione (R-Halfmoon). “While the State Legislature should not be practicing medicine, we can, and should, ensure that pioneering and courageous doctors taking a proactive approach to treating Lyme disease are not unfairly targeted by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct.”

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