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Congressmen Courtney, Gibson advance critical Lyme Disease legislation

May 21, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON– Congressmen Joe Courtney (CT-2) and Chris Gibson (NY-19) announced today the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved their legislation to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, agreeing to include the provisions in a broader bill to strengthen medical research and innovation.

The Tick-borne Disease Research Transparency and Accountability Act will be included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which expands federal programs designed to speed the development and approval of disease treatments and cures. The bill passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee this morning by unanimous voice vote.

“Tick-borne illnesses are especially prevalent in eastern Connecticut, affecting thousands of residents. Just last year, more than 1,700 people in our state were diagnosed with confirmed cases of Lyme disease—which is just one of the many diseases transmitted by ticks in the United States,” Congressman Courtney said. “Inclusion of tick-borne illnesses in the 21st Century Cures Act will help accelerate research into treatments and cures for these diseases.   Along with my Republican colleague Chris Gibson, I am pleased we were able to break through Washington’s partisan gridlock to advance this long-overdue effort, moving us closer to a cure for those infected with tick-borne illnesses, which are chronic and debilitating for far too many Americans.”

“This is outstanding news for Upstate New York and for the more than 300,000 Americans suffering from Lyme disease and a host of related illnesses like babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” said Congressman Gibson. “Ticks are an increasingly dangerous presence in our communities, causing a litany of health problems that often go untreated or undetected. This situation is exacerbated by the dated treatment guidelines in use by the Centers for Disease Control and a lack of coordinated research by federal regulators, both of which have kept patients waiting for treatments and left them in the lurch financially when insurers refuse to pay for healthcare costs. Our bill will bring relief to a long-suffering population, especially our chronic Lyme sufferers. I deeply appreciate Congressman Courtney’s guidance and advocacy on this critical legislation.”

The provisions on tick-borne illnesses in the 21st Century Cures Act create an interagency working group consisting of federal agencies and non-federal partners, including experienced Lyme physicians and patient advocates with a broad spectrum of scientific viewpoints. The working group is tasked with ensuring coordination among federal agencies like the NIH and CDC to maximize research priorities.

The bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to consult with the working group to submit a strategic plan to Congress within three years that includes benchmarks to measure progress. The plan must include a proposal for improving outcomes of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, including progress related to chronic or persistent symptoms, infections, and co-infections.

Last year, the Tick-borne Disease Research Transparency and Accountability Act became the first standalone bill addressing Lyme disease to pass the House of Representatives. The bill was not brought to a vote in the Senate, necessitating its reintroduction this year and leading to its inclusion as part of 21st Century Cures.

In addition to Congressman Courtney, the bipartisan bill’s original cosponsors include several Members of Congress from areas hit hard by Lyme disease: Lou Barletta (PA-11), John Katko (NY-24), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Chris Smith (NJ-4), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Peter Welch (VT), Rob Wittman (VA-1), and Lee Zeldin (NY-1).