Zemel Letter 1993

Letter from Zemel to Department of Public Health

Newington Children's Hospital

September 14, 1993

Donna Brewer

Department of Public Health

and Addiction Services

Hearing Office

750 Washington Street

Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Ms. Brewer:

I am concerned about the medical and ethical practices of a Bristol based physician, Dr. Phillip Watsky, a self proclaimed expert in Lyme disease. I have three related concerns about his care of patient with Lyme disease:

1. He seems to be over diagnosing Lyme Disease

2. He is grossly over treating Lyme Disease.

3. He may be profiteering from unnecessary therapies

For the past few years I've heard second hand reports, mostly from families of children that I treat that Dr. Watsky was prescribing months of IV antibiotics, contrary to mainstream Lyme Disease therapy. Initially I wrote him off as one of the several "fringe" physicians who were not following scientific principals in managing patients with Lyme Disease. Recently, however, an acquaintance called me and described some of her symptoms and wondered if she may have Lyme Disease. Based on her symptoms and her negative testing I felt she probably did not but should be thoroughly evaluated by her physician. She then told me how she phoned a Lyme Disease information number advertised in the Hartford Courant, 1-800-TICKBITE. Based on the same description she gave them, they felt she most likely had chronic Lyme Disease and referred her to Dr. Watsky. It is fairly common knowledge that the 800 phone number is located in the offices of a home infusion company which clearly stands to profit from intravenous therapy.

Ms. Donna Brewer

September 14, 1993

Another anecdote involves my lecturing at one of the local insurance companies, LIMRA. This was a community lecture sponsored my the Arthritis Foundation on Lyme Disease. At the conclusion of my talk the woman who organized the lecture started to tell me about her husband who had been on intravenous antibiotics for three months and was still having Lyme symptoms. I asked if her husband's physician was Dr. Watsky and she was quite surprised that I guessed who his physician was.

I continue to hear similar stories about this physician and I feel it is time that he was exposed if a fair investigation bears out my impression that he is practicing dangerous medicine.

I would suggest the following lines of investigations:

1. Interview reputable are physicians who know of Dr. Watsky's practices: a starting list would include Drs. Michael Gerber, Henry Feder, Steven Padula (all at Uconn), Dr. Robert Schoen (Yale), and some of the physicians in Bristol.

2. Examine insurance records of some of the major carriers in the state to see if he is a consistent outlier in terms of duration of home intravenous therapy.

3. Have one of your staff investigators pose as a patient, complete with vague symptoms and negative Lyme results but insisting she have Lyme Disease. I would be happy to rehearse that investigator.

4. Examine records of patients treated over the past few years for Lyme Disease to see if they truly fulfill established criteria for Lyme Disease.

5. Investigate whether there are pay backs or kick backs from home infusion companies to Dr. Watsky or whether he profits directly as a result of an in office administration of parenteral antibiotics.

Good luck with your investigation. I would be happy to assist in any way possible.


Lawrence Zemel, M.D.

Director, Pediatric Rheumatology