Lyme disease redux

Late to this, but there's an interesting explanation for Mitt Romney's mailers on Lyme disease -- and it relates to a Washington area controversy over antibiotic treatment. 

There's a good chance that Romney's interest in the issue comes from a Sept. 13 meeting with Michael Farris, founder of a Virginia Christian college and a believer in chronic Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is treated with a short course of antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no such thing as chronic Lyme disease. Long courses of antibiotics for lingering effects of the disease, the CDC says, work no better than placebos and can cause serious complications. 

But Farris, the chairman of a Lyme disease task force formed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), has argued that chronic sufferers require long-term antibiotic use. His wife and seven of his children, he says, are among those patients. Some members of Farris's family are being treated by Joseph Jemsek, who moved his medical practice to Washington after his license was suspended in North Carolina over controversial Lyme disease treatments.

In Romney's flyer, he promises to “provide local physicians with protection from lawsuits to ensure that they can treat the disease with the aggressive antibiotics that are required."

Farris was a supporter of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in the Republican primaries. When Santorum dropped out, the evangelical activist said he would have a "hard time" backing Romney. After meeting with Romney, Farris described the conversation on Facebook as "cordial and encouraging." 

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Rachel Weiner · October 3, 2012