Local News

Lyme Disease Doctor Allowed To Practice With Restrictions

Posted July 20, 2006 8:19 a.m. EDT

— A Charlotte doctor accused of misdiagnosing Lyme disease patients can practice medicine, but only with restrictions, the state Medical Board decided Thursday.

Dr. Joseph Jemsek said he would study the restrictions -- especially one that allows him to only prescribe a course of treatment lasting longer than two months if he is conducting research -- "and see what we can do in the best interests of our patients."

Last month, the 12-member board suspended Jemsek's license for a year, but allowed him to practice on a probationary basis. The meeting Thursday was to determine the conditions on his license.

Announced without comment by board president Dr. Robert Moffatt, the restrictions require Jemsek to have an informed consent statement from his patients. He also must send patients for a second opinion if a treatment wasn't supported by existing medical protocols.

Patients who develop adverse symptoms must be treated immediately, the board said.

Jemsek said he was already doing research at his clinic and had an informed consent policy and that in general "the restrictions are things we can live with."

Experts told the board last month that the standard treatment for Lyme disease is 28 days of oral antibiotics. Patients testified that Jemsek gave them oral and intravenous antibiotics for weeks. One woman died after receiving treatment.

"I basically feel like we were experimented with, like a guinea pig -- lab rat basically," said Dawn Brent, who claims the doctor misdiagnosed her and hooked her to an antibiotic IV for more than eight months. "It was devastating. I was unable to function for a long period of time."

Several patients who support Jemsek wore green armbands and sat behind him at the board meeting. Former patients, including some who complained to the board about severe side effects of the treatments, sat on the other side of the audience.

One of Jemsek's former patients, Phillip Moore of Concord, said after the meeting that he was satisfied with the board's action.

"He will be held accountable for every patient who walks through his door," said Moore, who said Jemsek treated for Lyme disease although later independent testing showed he didn't have it.

Moore said Jemsek wanted to test his wife on the grounds that Lyme disease was spread by sexual contact. At one point, Moore said he was given an anti-psychotic drug for "Lyme rage."

Before the board voted, Jemsek told the board that Lyme disease research trails that in other fields and that approved standards are inadequate. Patients who use the Internet to get information are frustrated that doctors don't have the same data.

He said doctors don't have time to help patients filter the information because they are caught up in medical bureaucracy.

"We all know the information is going full speed," Jemsek said. "Google this, Google there. Some of our patients are as smart as we are, smarter than we are."

Supporters have said Jemsek was the only doctor who could help them after numerous trips to other clinics.

Jemsek has treated about 2,000 patients for Lyme disease from 42 states and several foreign countries. Patients said his international reputation made them trust him.