My testimony against Maryland’s bill to force insurance companies to pay for quackery

On February 28, 2018 a Maryland State Senate committee meeting is being held to hear testimony on HB0880 and SB0793. These bills seek to force insurance companies to pay for long term antibiotics prescribed to people misled by quack doctors.`

My name is Stephan Neidenbach. I am a Prince George’s County middle school teacher and father. I am the founder of the grassroots organization We Love GMOs and Vaccines, which I started out of concern for my children because science policies are being created based on emotion rather than evidence. I have no ties, financial or otherwise, to any corporations or front groups.

I am speaking out today as a concerned parent of two small children, and as a teacher of future leaders. I feel it is my responsibility as a citizen to oppose HB0880 and SB0793, and be an example to my students and children.

I would like to summarize and quote from a chapter on Chronic Lyme from Do You Believe in Magic? By Dr. Paul Offit. Paul Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. He is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives every day.

According to Dr. Offit:

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In Lyme disease, alternative healers saw an opportunity. Typically, they catered to those for whom medicine offered little, such as women with menopause or children with autism. Lyme allowed them to expand their repertoire. Claiming that Lyme had a fourth stage, which they called Chronic Lyme disease, they argued that Lyme bacteria were the real cause of autism, homicidal behavior (even blaming school shootings on “lyme rage”), and a long list of impossibly related diseases. Because only they knew of this fourth stage, they called themselves “Lyme Literate” doctors, warning patients that they might have Chronic Lyme if they suffered every symptom imaginable from weight change and hair loss to difficulty concentrating and hangovers after drinking alcohol.

Lyme Literate doctors have been suspended, fined, reprimanded, or jailed for crimes ranging from insurance fraud and improperly prescribing antibiotics to using veterinary drugs in people and diagnosing children without examining them.

Although Lyme Literate doctors offer a wide range of therapies, no treatment receives more attention than long-term, high-dose intravenous antibiotics.

Lyme bacteria are easily detected in the laboratory. They grow outside cells, so they’re easy to detect and kill. And unlike some other bacteria, Lyme bacteria have not developed resistance to antibiotics. As a consequence, they are easily killed in laboratory flasks, in laboratory animals, and in people. The claim by Lyme Literate doctors that bacteria are hiding out of the sight of researchers (despite appropriate antibiotics) is akin to the claim by Bigfoot Literate people that only they know the monster exists.

The best way to determine whether Lyme Literate doctors are right is to take patients who they claim are suffering from Chronic Lyme and divide them into two groups. One group would be given long-term antibiotics, the other a placebo. This study has been done four times, each time with the same result. Patients treated with antibiotics for supposed Chronic Lyme fare no better than those given a placebo. Predictably, about a third of placebo recipients claimed that their symptoms had resolved. In 2007, in response to overwhelming evidence that refutes the existence of Chronic Lyme — and clear evidence of harm caused by its treatment — a group of Lyme experts issued a definitive statement in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Chronic Lyme disease is a misnomer,” they wrote, “and the use of prolonged, dangerous, and expensive antibiotic treatment for it is not warranted.” In other words, long-term antibiotics for a disease that doesn’t exist are unnecessary and dangerous.”

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As a father of two small children, I empathize with anyone experiencing pain or illness. I understand that when your loved one is hurting, mentally or physically, the need to find a solution. Reaching out to anyone offering an answer. But as a father I beg of you to listen to the overwhelming scientific consensus, that the long term use of antibiotics do more harm than good. Decisions we make for ourselves and our loved ones should be based on the best available evidence.