Lyme Disease Epidemic Causing Healthcare Crisis

Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:04pm EST

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

Under Our Skin Documentary Reveals Impact of Lyme Disease on Patients and
CHARLOTTE, N.C.--(Business Wire)--
An ongoing battle over the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, a tick-borne
illness, is pitting doctors against doctors, prompting health insurance
companies to deny medical claims at an alarming rate, and leaving suffering
patients stuck in the middle. 

Transmitted through the bite of a tick, the number of Lyme disease cases in the
United States has doubled since 1991-with at least 27,000 new cases reported
each year. But because of inaccurate tests and under-reporting the actual
numbers may be up to 12 times higher, according to the CDC, making Lyme disease
an epidemic larger than AIDS, West Nile Virus and Avian Flu combined. 

Tens of thousands of people suffer from what they say are the debilitating
effects of chronic Lyme disease, which can lead to lifelong disabilities or even
death. Yet many doctors deny that such a disease even exists, and doctors
willing to treat it using long-term antibiotic therapy have faced losing their
medical licenses. 

The award-winning documentary Under Our Skin takes an unflinching look at the
controversy surrounding Lyme disease and its impact on the national healthcare
system, with billions of dollars of insurance claims, doctors` medical licenses
and patients` lives hanging in the balance. 

The implications are staggering. Irwin Vanderhoof, PhD professor at the New York
University Stern School of Business, in 1993 estimated that Lyme disease cost
society nearly $1billion per year. That estimate has since skyrocketed to about
$2billion per year, including diagnosis, treatment, and lost wages, according to
Contingencies, an actuarial trade publication for the insurance industry. 

"Given the CDC`s admitted underreporting bias, the ultimate cost to society may
prove to be even more alarming," said Dr. Joseph Jemsek, a Charlotte-area
physician featured in Under Our Skin. "The cost in lives unfulfilled by an
illness that today`s medical profession refuses to acknowledge is incalculable."

In a landmark prosecution announced last year, Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal brought charges against the Infectious Diseases Society of
America (IDSA) for abuse of Lyme disease treatment guidelines and conflicts of
interest for guideline committee members. In response, the IDSA agreed to
restructure its committee and revise its controversial Lyme Disease Guidelines.
Meanwhile, as shown in Under Our Skin, patients continue to suffer through
misdiagnosis while seeking treatment for a disease they`re often told is just in
their heads. 

"The most important documentary to come out this year."-Molly Bedham, XM Radio 

"Well-researched, suspenseful, artfully shot."-Alissa Simon, Variety. 

Under Our Skin makes its southeastern US theatrical premiere as part of the Into
the Light Gala on March 20 at Ballantyne Village Theatre in Charlotte, N.C. The
Gala aims to raise Lyme disease awareness. 

Jemsek Specialty Clinic

Our mission at the Jemsek Specialty Clinic is to provide the highest standard of
care and compassion to our patients, to engage in research, and to be a model of
excellence to those serving the Lyme community worldwide.

To arrange interviews with patients or physicians profiled in Under Our Skin, or
to receive more information about the impact Lyme disease is having on the
national healthcare system, contact Michele Barth Thomas at 803-396-5885 ext.
212 or If you would like to attend the Into the
Light Gala on March 20, please contact Michele Barth-Thomas at your earliest
convenience so accommodations can be made to suit your media needs. 

Jemsek Specialty Clinic
Michele Barth Thomas, 803-396-5885, ext. 212

Copyright Business Wire 2009