‘Chronic’ Lyme Patients Recognized for First TimeHouse Boosting Programs to Assist Lyme Patients
Two distinct initiatives that will assist patients and families suffering from Lyme disease have cleared major hurdles in the House of Representatives and are on a “glide path” to House passage, said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairman of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus.
“It is a new day on Capitol Hill for Lyme disease patients when two separate, comprehensive bills that have significant bipartisan support also include key provisions to advance Lyme research,” Smith said. “After years of hard work and tenacity, Lyme patients and their advocates will no longer be marginalized and will retake their rightful place in mainstream research and treatment development,” he continued.
Smith’s announcement highlighted work in two separate House committees, the Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee, on priority legislation for 2015—each of which now include provisions on Lyme disease.
“Today the House Appropriations Committee adopted its annual military spending legislation that, for the first time, includes new resources for Lyme disease research through DOD’s innovative, high-risk, high-reward program,” said Smith, who recently coauthored a letter urging $5 million for the program. “And just two weeks ago, the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6), major legislation designed to revolutionize biomedical innovation, which also includes key provisions to boost research into Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
“The funding in the DOD bill will go a long way to find better treatments for the men and women in our military who have contracted Lyme,” Smith said. “Confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the military services have been diagnosed at more than 120 locations worldwide—and the advances in research and treatments made on behalf of our men and women in uniform have substantive and beneficial applications for patients in the greater population.”
The $5 million allocated by the Department of Defense (DOD) for Lyme and other tick-borne disease research represents a quarter of funding currently allotted for Lyme disease, which is $23 million annually at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“The 21st Century Cures Act, released by the Energy and Commerce Committee, will establish a much-needed Interagency Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Working Group that will operate in a transparent and open manner and for the first time include a broad range of stakeholder input and public involvement, including those who suffer from chronic Lyme,” Smith said.
“The 21st Century Cures Act is designed to spur the development of better treatments for individuals suffering from diseases and disorders and bring these treatments to market sooner,” said Smith. “Nowhere is there more of a demand for these reforms than in the Lyme disease community.”
Smith specifically thanked DOD Appropriations Chairman, Rodney Frelinghuysen for his work to include Lyme in the DOD program and Chairmen Pitts and Upton for incorporating the Lyme working group in the new 21st Century Cures bill.
The 4th district of New Jersey, which Smith represents, has been significantly impacted by Lyme disease. According to recent data from the CDC, 95 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states, of which New Jersey was 4th highest.
Smith, along with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), currently serves as co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus, a bipartisan organization dedicated to educating Members of Congress and staff about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Smith also held the first ever congressional hearing on Lyme before the global health subcommittee, which he chairs.
The Lyme Disease Association is headquartered in Smith’s district in Jackson Township, Ocean County, N.J.