Border-hopping ends for lyme disease sufferers

Greater Victoria physicians treating affliction with antibiotics

Neil McKinney

Neil McKinney

Instead of draining their savings to seek controversial lyme-disease treatment in the United States, suffering British Columbians can now find a similar treatment close to home, at the offices of select naturopathic physicians.

The new option is due to a one-year-old regulation change in the province that allows naturopaths to prescribe drugs, once they pass a test.

“For me, it’s a great relief,” said Dr. Ernie Murakami, a former physician and advocate for a different approach to lyme disease.

Murakami says he’s diagnosed and treated 3,000 patients by relying more heavily on a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms rather than prioritizing the results of laboratory tests. Many cases are going undiagnosed in B.C. due to false negatives in lab tests, he claims.

The problem is that lyme disease, if left untreated, produces a number of non-specific but often debilitating symptoms, including neurological symptoms, joint problems and sometimes cardiac problems.

The Hope-based doctor prescribed antibiotics for a minimum of three months if the disease was not detected soon after transmission from a tick. He says he’s seen the conditions of many of his patients, including some from Victoria, improve significantly.

Murakami’s methods, however, aren’t in line with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. The College of Physicians and Surgeons investigated him, and Murakami claims the college refuses to renew his medical licence. The College will not confirm this, citing privacy concerns.

Since then, he’s sent hundreds of patients across the border for treatment, and even some to Europe. He’s also been lecturing and mentoring naturopaths. Murakami knows of 35, including six in Victoria, willing to treat lyme disease. Few, however, are willing to talk openly about it.

Naturopathic physician Neil McKinney, who practises in Saanich, is an exception.

“I’m confident we’re not doing anything reckless,” said McKinney, who founded the B.C. Naturopathic Association. “We’re doing something that is done by doctors across North America. There is a track record for using these meds for this disease and we know what to reasonably expect from them and how to keep people safe.”

Some doctors shy away from the treatment because patients’ conditions initially deteriorate, McKinney said. “It’s very unnerving for a doctor new to the field to be giving something that is fairly risky therapy and then see people get worse. It takes a little while to have faith that you are making people better in the long run.”

McKinney now treats a dozen patients for lyme disease. “We have to fill the gap … until doctors step up,” he said.

McKinney’s methods, however, differ in some ways from those of his mentor, Murakami. For instance, naturopaths may not prescribe high-dose intravenous antibiotics for patients with advanced symptoms. Instead, McKinney prescribes botanicals alongside lower doses of antibiotics, generally for a period of one to two months.

These differences remove some of the risk factors that concern the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

“There’s been three randomized control trials that have been done that have shown there is no benefit from long-term antibiotic treatment or IV antibiotic treatment beyond the initial treatment course,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the centre’s director of public health emergency services.

Antibiotic treatment, she said, should last 10 to 15 days unless a patient has previous cardiac or musculoskeletal symptoms, in which case “they may need several more weeks of treatment.” But longer-term treatment presents a danger, she said. “There are people who have died from it.”

Henry also defends B.C.’s diagnostic procedures. “The type of testing that we do at our laboratory … is the recognized, accredited testing done around the world,” she said, but  admitted it’s not 100-per-cent accurate.

“If a clinician really feels that this person has lyme disease regardless of the testing, they should go ahead and treat them.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

On the web

For more information or to contact Ernie Murakami, visit www.murakamicentreforlymebc.giving.officelive.com

Just Posted

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read