UPDATE: Illinois Lawmakers Approve Physician Exemption For Lyme Disease

May 14, 2018

Credit JohnTann-WikimediaCommons

Update: The measure heads to Governor Bruce Rauner's desk. Sponsor state Sen. Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) has not yet heard whether the governor will support the idea. The Governor's Office did not respond for comment. 

Original story: Illinois lawmakers could give doctors more protection when it comes to  prescribing experimental drugs for Lyme disease. Experts say the bloodsucking bugs could be expanding their range this year, spreading the disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

Often times, those infected don’t realize it or it’s not diagnosed correctly causing lifelong issues. State Sen. Chris Nybo from (R-Elmhurst) says doctors are also generally cautious in treatment methods for the disease.

“It’s very hard to find physicians that are willing to prescribe this type of treatment, even though they believe that it’s medically necessary, because of the disciplinary risk that exists,” said Nybo. 

The proposal would exempt doctors from disciplinary action in these cases. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is opposed to the idea. Meghan Kolassa, with the department, said no doctors have been disciplined for treating Lyme disease in Illinois.  

“We do have a problem with putting this type of immunity or exemption for doctors inside the Medical Practice Act," said Kolassa. We don’t lay out any other disease in the Medical Practice Act and tell them how to treat or what not to treat.”

Even some doctors have serious reservations about the proposed legislation. They said any experimental process should have oversight. Typically doctors treat Lyme disease with basic antibiotics, but they also recognize that the disease can have chronic issues they do not yet understand. 

The bill passed nearly unanimously out of the House and moves to the Senate for consideration.