Washington, DC – If anyone who has been watching the events unfold in light of the recent hurricanes; it is obvious that the CDC, among other governmental agencies, is trying to downplay wrongdoings, to say the least. MHS has just uncovered some additional information about the CDC and their attempts to stifle evidence, funding assistance, and information being disseminated to the public on environmental illness. In May 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Inspector General (IG) confirmed a long-held belief in the chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) advocacy community: that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had mismanaged funds intended for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) research. Nearly $13 million reported to have been spent on CFIDS research from 1995-98 was actually used for other, unrelated projects. No action was ever taken against them, however.
The first hints of this misuse of funds came in 1992, when The CFIDS Association of America commissioned a study to examine the CDC’s CFIDS program, as it was suspected that CDC was not managing its CFIDS program properly.
Direct evidence of the funding improprieties finally came in August 1998, when Dr. William C. Reeves, head of the CDC’s CFS research program, came forward as a “whistleblower” to Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Dr. Reeves’ statement outlined serious allegations that, from 1995-97 his supervisor had used millions of dollars charged to the CFS account to cover other, unrelated programs.
Inspector General Validates Allegations
Dr. Reeves’ statement immediately triggered an investigation by the DHHS IG, which issued its final report in May 1999, validating these allegations. The IG found:
- Between 1995 and 1998, 57%, or $12.9 million, of the funds CDC reported to have been spent on CFIDS research were spent on other programs.
- $8.8 million was used on completely unrelated research programs and the records on $4.1 million were so poor that the IG couldn’t tell how they were spent.
- CDC provided inaccurate information to Congress about the amount they had spent on CFIDS.
- CDC officials ignored Congressional direction telling them to increase the agency’s efforts on CFIDS.
Diverted Funds Restored
The CFIDS Association of America immediately launched a successful Congressional campaign to gain restoration of the full $12.9 million to CDC’s CFS research program. These funds, to be restored incrementally over the period 1999-2004, are being managed by the highest levels of DHHS and CDC to ensure that they are used as directed by Congress on CFS research.
As a result of the influx of funds to CDC’s CFIDS research program, the agency has sharply increased its efforts to better understand this illness. After gathering recommendations from CFIDS advocates and researchers, CDC is implementing a plan to “reinvigorate” its research program. The agency is conducting a national CFIDS information campaign directed at health care providers; a revision of the CFS case definition (based on medical evidence); and research on endocrine and sleep abnormalities, pathogenic agents, environmental exposures and brain imaging. CDC has also stated that it will expand its collaborations with other scientists, look into the quality of life of CFIDS patients, investigate reported clusters in occupations and families and launch a registry of CFIDS patients.
General Accounting Office Finds Diminishing Effort
Following the IG’s report, the U.S. General Accounting Office conducted a study of the CFS programs at CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This report, released in June 2000, documented the following problems:
- a declining CFS research program at the National Institutes of Health since 1996, including diminishing expenditures and staff;
- lack of effective communication between NIH and CDC about CFS activities;
- CDC’s misspending of CFS research funds, which has impeded progress in research on CFS;
- The DHHS’s ineffective leadership of the CFS Coordinating Committee (CFSCC); and many other alleged illicit misdoings of these agencies.
Written by Susan Lilliard Roberts