November 30, 2012
Dr. Allan Chamberlain, representing the West Virginia State Medical Association, addressed West Virginia lawmakers on the merits of expedited partner therapy (EPT) that treats partners of patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) without examining the partners. Chamberlain argued that EPT can stop transmission of the infection and save society medical costs. The doctor was speaking before the Joint Committee on Health's revival of SB647. Chamberlain explained that the incidence of chlamydia rose 55 percent in Kanawha County -- but fewer than half of the patients were treated -- and that one in six chlamydia patients was re-infected by an untreated partner. He acknowledged that writing the prescription for a patient that had not been examined is a breach of the normal standard of care, but this is an exception and one that is in the public interest.
Committee counsel Jeff Johnson said that the state's Department of Health and Human Resources must develop outreach materials and that SB647 also provided limited liability for doctors providing services except in "gross negligence or willful or wanton disregard." Delegate Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, an emergency room physician, was concerned that some physicians might not have time to provide the required material to patients. She commented that the government requirements would take more time rather than simply allowing treatment. She noted that instead of sending the patient to a health department or a website, the bill would require direct dissemination of materials. Staggers also admitted to practicing a type of EPT for years.
Chamberlain emphasized the problem of chlamydia infection, which can lead to many other health issues, including making it easier for the infected person to acquire HIV. He noted that under the proposed legislation, the medical community can reach far more of those who are infected. He stated that without referral of partners, only about 12 percent show up for treatment. Chamberlain commented that the medical community did not want to return to the old practice of sending the police to track down people with STDs. He considered the track record of states using EPT and noted that there was no record of a lawsuit against a medical practitioner for prescribing to a sexual partner. Chamberlain stated that the old strategy of having persons with STDs come in and treating them when they come in would be wonderful -- except they don't come in so they are not treated, and they continue to infect others.