By Vicki C. Walker
CDC scandal broadens
Evidence has emerged indicating that the diversion of
CFS research funds
is only the tip of the iceberg at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as Lyme disease,
hantavirus, hepatitis and HIV funds also appear to have been misused.
When the CFS scandal broke,
CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan made the rounds on Capitol Hill, assuring legislators that the diversion
of CFS funds was "an isolated incident."
Paralleling his remarks on the CFS diversion, he said
that the hantavirus funds were used to respond to emergencies in "very important public heath areas."
These latest reports have left some in Congress angry at and distrustful of CDC and wondering about the
pervasiveness of CDC managers disregarding Congressional direction and lying to cover their tracks.
House Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation started looking into this question, using documents
from the Inspector General's CFS audit and The CFIDS Association of America as sources. Senators Bliley
and Upton have sent letters to Dr. Koplan seeking additional information about how funds were used.
February 29, the Senate got in its licks at the DHHS Appropriations Hearing. Senators Specter and Reid
did not accept Dr. Koplan's or DHHS Secretary Dr. Donna Shalala's responses to their questions about the
diverted CFS, hanta-virus and Lyme disease funds. The Hearing transcript is posted on the web page listed
at bottom left.
A major point of contention was whether or not Dr. Koplan had met with the Inspector
General (IG) to learn of the other problems uncovered in the CFS audit that were beyond the scope of that
report. Dr. Koplan avoided answering, which fed Senator Specter's anger. He and Senator Reid demanded
to know what disciplinary actions had been taken against those behind the scandal and whether illegal
activity had taken place.
The hearing was essentially shut down when Dr. Shalala said that it
was unlawful to discuss private personnel matters in a public forum, so Drs. Shalala and Koplan were taken
behind closed doors by the Senators to discuss the matter in private. Dr. Shalala agreed to additional
oversight hearings if warranted.
In addition, Senators Specter, Harkin, Bingamin and Domenici
and have asked the GAO to investigate CDC's accounting practices. The GAO and the requesting Senators
are currently working to define the scope of that investigation and get it underway, although it will
be a year or more before the results are released. CDC has also con-tracted with private accounting firms
to conduct additional audits.
In February, an independent PricewaterhouseCoopers audit showed that,
in 1999 CDC could not account for $53,207 of $6.4 million it spent on CFS research, even though the program
was actively being watched by the General Accounting Office (GAO), CDC's Office of the Director, the Department
of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Office of Management and Budget, Congress and the CFIDS community.
is still no word from the Department of Justice regarding Senator Reid's request for an investigation
into possible breaches of the "Lying to Congress" Act. C-ACT members have reported that Senators Kyl,
Robb, Murkowski and Santorum have also asked the Justice department to investigate this situation.
NIH grant information released
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently
information about the CFS grants it funded in fiscal year 1999. A total of $6.7 million was provided by
six NIH Institutes. Please see the CFIDS Advocacy section of the Association's web site at www.cfids.org/advocacy
for a list of the grants NIH has reported to be CFS-related.
"State of the Science" committee formed
Dozens of people were nominated to
serve on the "State
of the Science" Conference planning committee announced at the February 8th CFS Coordinating Committee
(CFSCC) meeting (see Winter Chronicle). This meeting, to
take place in October 2000 in concert with a CFSCC meeting, is a replacement for the botched National
Institutes of Health (NIH) "State of the Science Internal Consultation" held in February.
April 10, the NIH announced that the following people had been named to the planning committee. From the
CFSCC: Anthony Komaroff, MD (chair); Donna Dean, PhD; Kim Kenney; Nancy Klimas, MD; Jan Montgomery and
Jon Sterling. From the public: David Bell, MD; Pat Blankenship and Leonard Jason, PhD.
considered a CFSCC activity, NIH will pay for the conference, which will be open to the public.
committee has chosen two broad subjects for the conference: the central nervous system, including neuroendocrine
studies, cognition, pain, autonomic dysfunction, sleep and fatigue, and immunological findings, although
specific infectious agents will not be a primary focus. The committee hoped to finalize its list of presenters
and make invitations by the end of April.
Name change task force
Surprisingly, far fewer nominations than expected were
the name-change task force announced at the February CFSCC meeting, despite widespread agreement that
the name "CFS" should be changed. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will select new members
to join Kim Kenney, Nancy Klimas, MD and Art Lawrence, MD (of DHHS) on the CFSCC task force.
Appropriations requests delivered
On April 5, CFIDS Associ-ation Vice Chairman
spoke before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations
committee, presenting The CFIDS Association's fiscal year 2001 requests for CFS programs at the federal
health agencies (see the "CFIDS advocacy" section of the Association's web site). This is the sixth consecutive
year that the Association has been granted one of the coveted slots to deliver its requests in person,
rather than only in written form.
Government's CFS review underway
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
awarded a contract to the Evidence-Based Center at Texas Health Sciences University in San Antonio to
examine the state of CFS research and make a report on what is known scientifically about the illness.
Dr. Gil Ramirez, who is leading the efforts, attended the NIH "State of the Science" and CFS Coordinating
Committee meetings February 6-8. A 16-member international advisory committee, of which I am a member,
has been formed and will meet in mid-May.
July CFSCC meeting scheduled
The CFSCC will meet July 12 in Washington to
discuss the GAO
report. Meeting details will be announced through the C-ACT e-mail list and posted on the CFIDS Advocacy
section of the Association's web site.
Vicki Walker is Research and Public Policy Project Manager for The CFIDS Association
GAO report, Lobby Day to coincide
The CFIDS Association’s annual Lobby Day activities have been
moved to June 21-22 from the traditional May 12/CFIDS Awareness Day date to take advantage of the release
of the GAO report on CFS research programs at CDC and the National Institutes of Health. The GAO report
will be released in mid-June and CFIDS advocates will be bringing it—and the CFIDS community’s response—to
our representatives on Capitol Hill. Look forward to a full report in the Summer Chronicle.