Agency Activities: CDC Scandal
CDC accused of lying to
Congress about chronic fatigue research
By David Pace
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After complaining for more than
a decade that
federal health officials don't take chronic fatigue syndrome seriously, activists for more research into
the mysterious illness finally have what they consider the "smoking gun."
In a whistle-blower complaint filed earlier this summer,
for Disease Control and Prevention's top CFS researcher has accused the agency of lying to Congress by
spending money earmarked for the disease on unrelated activities.
"I believe the CDC has intentionally misrepresented
to CFS research and I cannot ethically support this," said Dr. William C. Reeves, a branch chief in the
CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases.
From fiscal 1995 through fiscal 1997, some $5.8 million
CDC told Congress had been spent on CFS research actually went to other activities, Reeves said in a statement.
Reeves specifically accused Dr. Claire Broome, acting
the Atlanta-based CDC, of providing false information to Congress when she testified that part of the
money reported by the CDC in 1996 for CFS research went to establish a new laboratory in the branch headed
"This evidence confirms the suspicions we've acted
on for years,
that CDC was using CFS research money to float other programs," said Kimberly Kenney, executive director
of an association that advocates for CFS patients.
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency is aware
of Reeves' allegations
and is taking them "very seriously." He said the CDC has asked the inspector general of the Department
of Health and Human Services to investigate, but he declined to address Reeves' specific charges.
For the past several years, Congress has included
language in the
report on spending legislation for the CDC and other health agencies directing that more money be spent
on CFS research. Prior to fiscal 1996, the House report called for the CDC to spend specific amounts on
While report language does not carry the force of
law, federal agencies
generally follow the recommendations because they do not want to offend the lawmakers who control their
Rep. John Porter, R-Ill., chairman of the House appropriations
that handles the CDC budget, is taking Reeves' allegations "quite seriously" and may order an investigation
by the General Accounting Office, said Porter's press secretary, David Kohn. "There would be repercussions
if Mr. Porter felt that he and the subcommittee were misled and the information provided was not accurate,"
CFS is a debilitating condition in which people become
so tired that
they cannot function. It is hard to diagnose because it mimics diseases such as multiple sclerosis or
Lyme disease, and doctors do not know what causes it. First identified in Nevada in 1985, the disease
now afflicts as many as 500,000 Americans, according to the latest CDC estimates.
John Friedlich of Cambridge, Mass., a CFS sufferer
who has been an
advocate of increased federal research into the disease, said the allegations are remarkable because of
their source. "Reeves has not been considered a friend of the (CFS) patients' community," Friedlich said.
"For him to come forward has caught a lot of people by surprise." Friedlich said the predominant attitude
among CDC scientists for years has been that CFS "is not important, is not a real illness and they're
not going to commit to try to learn more about it."
Reeves filed his statement under the federal Whistle
which guarantees job protection for federal employees who report fraud, waste or abuse. He is still working
at the CDC, but is not granting interview requests.
Copyright 1998, Associated Press
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