What happens when 200 people with no medical expertise gather to debate the finer points of scientific evidence on treatment for a serious disease? We’ll soon find out in the Massachusetts Legislature, where pols are now in charge of sorting out the controversy over long-term antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease.
New England is ground zero for the tick-borne bacterial infection — so named because it was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut. Those infected can suffer from a range of serious effects, including joint pain and heart and central nervous system complications. The standard treatment for Lyme disease is a two- to four-week course of antibiotic treatment. Some patients, however, suffer from long-term symptoms and a national Lyme disease advocacy group has pushed vigorously for longer-term antibiotic treatment in such cases. They have found legislative allies in Rep. David Linsky and Sen. Anne Gobi, cosponsors of a budget amendment that would mandate insurance coverage of long-term treatment of Lyme disease.
The consensus of opinion among leading medical organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and American Academy of Neurology, is that there is no proven benefit to extended antibiotic treatment of Lyme and some risk of harm. Gov. Charlie Baker is skeptical as well, but he seems to have decided to split the baby: He further amended the legislators’ language to say that long-term Lyme treatment must be covered by insurance only if prescribed by a neurologist, rheumatologist, or infectious disease specialist.
The ball is now back in the Legislature’s court, where the House could override Baker’s changes as soon as today. Linksy told the Boston Herald he was “disappointed” in Baker’s move. He said the governor’s language could make it more difficult and costly to obtain treatment — though he said he doesn’t believe that was Baker’s intent. Making it more difficult to get treatment is, in fact, exactly the governor’s intent. His changes would set up a Lyme treatment Catch-22 by requiring patients seeking long-term drug treatment to go see specialists whose professional organizations reject the idea that there is benefit to such treatment.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents physicians, says it objects to limiting prescribing authorization to specialists, while business and insurance officials feel Baker didn’t go far enough and want to avoid any insurance mandate to cover extended Lyme treatment.
In other words, everyone is a little ticked off.
The Governor’s Council confirmed Superior Court Judge Frank Gaziano as a justice on the Supreme Judicial Court, the first of Gov. Charlie Baker’s three nominees to replace retiring members on the state’s highest court. (State House News Service)
Jim Braude thinks state-sponsored online lottery games “is the worst idea yet.” (Greater Boston)
The Massachusetts Senate passes municipal modernization and updates liquor license laws. The body also acts on bills limiting the use of credit checks in hiring and wage theft. (Masslive) A move to loosen regulations on beer distribution contracts is drawing fire from beer distributors and union delivery drivers. (Boston Globe)
Some 1,000 people gathered in Roxbury to protest police killings of blacks. (Boston Herald)
The town of Barnstable has filed suit against the county for $2 million over allegations the region’s fire and rescue training facility contaminated drinking water supplies. (Cape Cod Times)
Sudbury officials say a developer of an affordable housing project may have misspent town money after the developer failed to pay $188,000 to contractors from funds the town allocated. (MetroWest Daily News)
More than 100 people in Lowell hold a vigil for a political commentator slain in Cambodia. (Lowell Sun)
A House committee subpoenas Attorney General Maura Healey and her counterpart in New York seeking information on their climate change probe of Exxon Mobil. (Masslive)
Arizona’s supreme court rules that police can search a home if they smell marijuana, even if medical marijuana is legal. (Governing)
Donald Trump’s family wants Newt Gingrich as his vice president but top staffers are pushing for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. (U.S. News & World Report) Yvonne Abraham laments the fact that Trump seems to be passing up eminently available Scott Brown, with more than a little tongue planted in cheek. (Boston Globe)
A new poll shows the race tightening, with Trump taking leads or tying Hillary Clinton in three key states in the wake of the Justice Department’s closure of a probe into her emails. (New York Times)
The Herald claims verbal volleys between Trump and Elizabeth Warren “have dominated the 2016 campaign.” Really?
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce sends a letter to city officials complaining about rude, discourteous treatment at the city’s historical commission. (Telegram & Gazette)
A New Bedford police detective who is a member of the School Committee lashed out against Superintendent Pia Durkin in a public Facebook post, labeling her “a lying, manipulative, conniving, out of control woman” for accusing him of using his police post to gather information on students. (Standard-Times)
Kathy Egmont, the former head of the Lowell Community Charter Public School, received a $100,000 severance payment as part of her decision to step down. (Lowell Sun)
The Globe gives a detailed account of the events leading to tension over race issues at Boston Latin School.
The Gloucester School Committee proposes paring back sports fees from $230 to $200. The fees had run as high as $330 four years ago. (Gloucester Times)
The Justice Resource Institute says it will appeal a decision by a Sandwich historic committee rejecting its plan to open an alternative school that the committee deemed too large for the area. (Cape Cod Times)
The state public health council approves an expansion of Salem Hospital and the closure of Union Hospital in Lynn.
A federal audit delivers a blistering critique of state handling of potential cases of abuse among residents of group homes for the developmentally disabled. (Boston Globe)
Talk of a public option in health care is back, writes John McDonough. (CommonWealth)
A Narcan donation worth $200,000 can’t be used in Gloucester because the dosage level is too high. (Gloucester Times)
The state has ordered a Brockton nursing home to stop admitting patients over a concern for patient safety because staff at the facility failed to respond appropriately to a resident in cardiac arrest. (The Enterprise)
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed a bill legalizing marijuana as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Providence Journal)
Boston Harbor Cruises launches a water shuttle service in Salem Harbor. (Salem News)
A Berkshire Eagle editorial suggests Pittsfield should consider buying a waste-to-energy plant that is being shut down because it’s old and outdated.
An activist opposed to bringing more natural gas into the region backs a prohibition on what she calls a “pipeline tax.” (CommonWealth)
A top EPA official tours cleanup sites around Lawrence with Mayor Dan Rivera. (Eagle-Tribune)
A move by the state court system to block routine online access to information on criminal proceedings in superior courts is drawing criticism. (Boston Globe)
The FBI is closing its 45-year hunt for D.B. Cooper, the nation’s most notorious skyjacker, who parachuted from a plane over Washington state in 1971 and disappeared after collecting $200,000 in ransom money in exchange for passengers. (New York Times)
Investigators have received a new lead in a long unsolved murder in Brockton but the case is being transferred to Worcester County because a new suspect has ties to a Brockton City Hall official. (The Enterprise)
The size of the bail set for a Syrian refugee accused of groping a 13-year-old girl in Lowell is called excessive. The district attorney called for $50,000 bail, but the judge cut the amount in half. (Lowell Sun)
A downsizing Boston.com is gearing up for some major changes as it attempts to be more complementary to the subscription-based BostonGlobe.com. (Media Nation)