Agency Activities: Statement by Dr. William Reeves
Report of Erroneous Information from
CDC on CFS
Research Allocations 1996-98
I am Dr. William C. Reeves. I am Chief
of the Viral Exanthems and
Herpesvirus Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I am directly responsible for CDC's chronic fatigue syndrome
(CFS) research program.
I believe CDC has provided erroneous
information to Congress, DHHS
and patient groups concerning support of CFS research. I have attempted to rectify this within CDC. I
am noting for the record that my providing this testimony is covered by the Whistle Blower Act, and I
request protection under the Act.
In 1997, The CFIDS Association of America
and Dr. Arthur Lawrence
(Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, DHHS) requested details concerning CDC's 1996-1998 allocations
for CFS. An appropriate response was not received until February 1998, and serious questions were immediately
raised concerning the veracity of the figures. I believe CDC's replies to these questions contain intentional
Research Support Fiscal Year 1996
CDC's reports to DHHS, Congress and the CFIDS Association
state that $1.2 million was used to support CFS laboratory studies in 1996. Indeed, on the last day of
FY [fiscal year] '96, $1.2 million of laboratory equipment and supply costs incurred by the Measles and
Polio Eradication Programs were charged to CFS. When Ms. Kenney asked Dr. Brian Mahy (Division Director
and my immediate supervisor) to justify this at the April 1998 DHHS CFS Coordinating Committee meeting,
he told her the money was used to support CFS laboratory research. He asked me to verify this, and I stated
that the 1996 CFS Research Program did not include a laboratory effort. When Congressman Porter asked
CDC to explain this discrepancy, he was told that the 1996 CFS Research Program included studies of enteroviruses,
Borna disease virus and herpesviruses. When Dr. [Claire] Broome (Acting Director of CDC) testified to
Congress, she was queried as to CFS expenses for supplies and equipment and stated that 1996 costs were
significantly higher because CDC was investigating the potential role of infectious agents in the etiology
of CFS. She further stated that a portion of the costs were used to establish a new laboratory in my Branch.
This information is not true. CDC's most recent publication
laboratory studies of CFS was published in 1995. Actual laboratory work was accomplished between 1993-94.
This work involved testing performed in 12 different CDC laboratories and was done at no cost to the CFS
program. Analysis showed that there was no need to conduct similar laboratory studies. Dr. Mahy, my Division
Director, was well aware of this because he conducts a detailed annual review of all programs. In addition,
Dr. Mahy held a peer review of the CFS program in August 1996, during which we discussed laboratory studies
and plans in detail. Finally, I informed Dr. Mahy on at least two occasions during preparation of the
requested budget reports that no CFS laboratory work was conducted in 1996.
The $1.2 million that CDC falsely indicated was used
to support CFS
laboratory research in 1996 only represents part of the misrepresentation that fiscal year. Dr. Mahy's
Division appears to have used an additional $1.4 million of monies they reported as supporting CFS research
in my Branch for unrelated activities. These monies encompassed [approximately] $600,000 to support staff
elsewhere in the Division (this was in addition to overhead staff shown in the materials given to Congress)
and [approximately] $900,000 for various contracts ($200,000 measles program agreements with other agencies,
$200,00 to the respiratory & Enterovirus Branch for management and professional services; $228,000
epidemiology and laboratory fellowships, $315,000 printing services contracts).
Unrelated projects have been charged as CFS in previous
1995, CDC reported [approximately] $6 million was used to support CFS research. After overhead, about
$4 million should have been available for program. Again, on the last day of the fiscal year, Dr. Mahy's
Division charged $2.6 million used in unrelated studies against CFS.
CFS Research Support Fiscal Year
CDC's reports to DHHS, Congress and The CFIDS Association
state that my Branch used $3.4 million for CFS research during 1997. However, I can only account for $2.8
million. At the end of FY '97, Dr. Mahy's Division Administrator withdrew or withheld $340,000 to cover
other programs ($150,000 in orders for equipment, $20,000 in supplies for the laboratory and $167,000
for personnel contracts). However, the withheld monies were shown as CFS research costs in the reports.
The withheld monies represented about half of what was needed to fully establish a CFS Molecular Epidemiology
Laboratory (recommended during 1996 peer review and suggested in FY 97 Congressional language). The withheld
funds ($340,000) had to be covered by the CFS Research Program from the FY '98 allocation.
As with 1996 expenses, this was not a simple accounting
or an oversight due to lack of information. My Branch had worked throughout the year to provide Dr. Mahy
with accurate 1997 budget estimates. This culminated on October 17, 1997, when Dr. Mahy asked me for a
detailed breakdown of CFS research expenditures. I noted that what we had actually spent on CFS was significantly
less than what CDC was planning to put forward. He stated that "we were at cross purposes" and that the
only figures that would be given out were $3.4 million in direct research costs.
Indeed, my Branch's entire FY '97 research allocation
was $1.7 million,
inclusive of CFS. On August 4, 1997, I met with Dr. Mahy's Administrative Officer to clarify this. He
told me, although they had received an allocation of $4.2 million for CFS, that he could not pass the
entire allocation to the CFS Program because some branches had insufficient budgets and Dr. Mahy had always
made up such deficits with CFS and other similar monies. I can provide the names of the five individuals
who attended this meeting.
CFS Research Support Fiscal Year 1998
An identical pattern is occurring in 1998. Dr. Broome
Congress that CDC had allocated $5.8 million for CFS and that $3.4 million would directly support research
in my Branch. My entire Branch FY '98 allocation from Dr. Mahy is $2.5 million and this must support research
involving 32 FTS's [full-time equivalent staff members] in Papillomaviruses, Herpesviruses and Poxviruses,
in addition to CFS. I sent five memos to Dr. Mahy's Administrative Officer over the last week to obtain
clarification and was finally told that he would drop by some time and discuss it with me.
In addition to these apparently intentional misrepresentations
CDC's allocation for CFS research, I believe CDC has grossly misrepresented overhead costs for Dr. Mahy's
Division. During her testimony to Congress, Dr. Broome stated that a Committee Management Specialist was
required full-time to support Dr. Mahy's duties as co-chair of the CFS Coordinating Committee. In my opinion,
this reply is insulting. The Committee has met three times with Dr. Mahy as co-chair (May 1997, October
1997, April 1998). The Committee Management Specialist in question (Renee Ross) was not certified until
July 1997 and left for another position at CDC before the April 1998 Committee meeting. Her principal
daily duties during 1997 and 1998 were to serve as Dr. Mahy's secretary. In addition, a separate Committee
Executive Secretary was responsible for many of the duties Dr. Broome indicated for the Committee Management
Specialist. Finally, as a benchmark, CDC's CFS Research Program (for which I am responsible) charges 75%
of a Secretary and 10% of a Program Analyst FTEs to CFS. In addition to daily administration, they cover
responses to approximately 450 direct contacts monthly.
Summary & Conclusion
In summary, I believe that CDC has intentionally misrepresented
allocated to CFS research and I cannot ethically support this. The misrepresentations involve systematically
charging between $400,000 and $2 million incurred by unrelated activities to CFS between 1995-97 and reporting
to DHHS, Congress and patients that the monies were used for CFS research. Previous administrators under
Dr. Mahy could be interviewed to explore this in more detail for years in which Congress specified a CFS
appropriation. The misrepresentations also involve charging inappropriate Division overheads to CFS. The
misrepresentations have been compounded by intentionally ignoring technical information from Program concerning
expenses and knowingly transmitting inaccurate figures and information. I am responsible for the CFS Research
Program and cannot manage this responsibility in an acceptable fashion unless CDC provides Program the
same support it tells the public is available.
The CFIDS Association
Research and Encouragement for the CFIDS Community
PO Box 220398
Charlotte NC 28222-0398
Info Line: 800/442-3437
Resource Line: 704/365-2343
© 2000, The CFIDS
Association of America, Inc.
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