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Lyme disease clinic a ‘waste,’ group says

B.C.’s new complex chronic disease program is a “complete waste of time” for Lyme disease patients, says the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

B.C.’s new complex chronic disease program is a “complete waste of time” for Lyme disease patients, says the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

The foundation, which advocates for better testing, diagnosis and treatment, withdrew its endorsement of the program at B.C. Women’s Hospital on Wednesday.

“We are now put into a position of warning people not to go there, because they are going to get their treatment delayed, and the delay can be lethal,” said Jim Wilson, president of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

Wilson said the program has been “hijacked by the infectious disease community,” which insists upon old guidelines, inadequate testing and a refusal to authorize long-term antibiotic treatments that might cure the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by tick bites. If not diagnosed and treated quickly, it can have long-term health effects.

The new $2-million chronic disease clinic was created, in part, to respond to concerns of inadequate education and awareness of the disease.

But after more than two years of planning, the eventual policy on Lyme disease at the program became a “whitewash and a complete waste of our time,” Wilson said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer disagreed, calling the Lyme disease foundation’s move “disappointing.”

The clinic looks at many complex and chronic conditions, and tries to examine all aspects of a patient’s life, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, acting provincial health officer and medical director of communicable diseases at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

She took particular aim at the foundation’s push for long-term antibiotic treatment.

“I think it’s very shortsighted to think long-term antibiotic treatment is the answer,” she said, adding antibiotics aren’t generally known to have long-term benefits and can have lethal consequences.

“The clinic will assess people individually and if they need long-term antibiotics, that will absolutely be offered to them.”

rshaw@timescolonist.com