A new commentary warns that some treatments for chronic pain, such as that for Lyme disease, have little scientific basis despite being pushed by doctors and other patients.
As such, patients should be diligent and demand proof of safety and benefit before beginning any treatment regimen for chronic pain.
The commentary is published online in The FASEB Journal, a publication devoted to experimental biology.
In the article, Phillip J. Baker, Ph.D., executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, dispels myths surrounding chronic Lyme disease, using it as an example of why patients should ensure that diagnostic and treatment tools are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and not just recommended by other patients and physicians.
“Despite repeated warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease often is based on the false results of non-standard test procedures, not approved by the FDA,” said Baker.
“This is inexcusable since 46 FDA-approved tests are available and used routinely by various state public health laboratories. A false diagnosis can result in patients being placed on prolonged antibiotic therapy or some other unproven and potentially harmful remedy.”
Because of the uncertainty surrounding treatment for chronic pain, individuals should ask their physician to provide results from published, placebo-controlled studies proving that the proposed remedy is both beneficial and safe.
Further, according to the experts, patient-testimonials are not sufficient proof of benefit and safety — regardless of the number of recommendations.
Unapproved and undocumented treatments are usually not covered by health insurance and therefore result in a huge financial burden to the patient.
“When doctors don’t know what’s causing a patient to experience chronic pain, desperation can set in,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal.
“That desperation, however, is no excuse for pushing the boundaries of the Hippocratic Oath by diagnosing a patient with a poorly defined health condition, like chronic Lyme disease, for which the only remedies are unproven and may only cause more harm.”
Chronic Lyme disease must be considered as part of a broad-based, multidisciplinary effort to understand the cause and treatment of chronic pain in general as outlined by the Institute of Medicine’s report, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.”