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Keeping you up to date on
recent events across the nation and around the world
Insurer accused of cutting
Unum Provident, the nation’s largest long-term disability
(LTD) insurer, has been accused of wrongly terminating or denying benefits in an
attempt to cut costs.
The company’s former medical director has filed suit against
Unum Provident, claiming that the firm’s “primary purpose and policy” was to
deny disability claims. Dr. Patrick Fergal McSharry said outside doctors, called
medical advisors, were encouraged to use language in their patient reports that
would support claim denials.
Unum Provident has denied the allegations. The case will be
heard in a federal court; a trial date has not been set.
The case gained further notoriety in
October, when the television program “Dateline NBC” aired a segment about the
lawsuit and Unum Provident practices. Meanwhile, a
attorney has filed a
class-action suit against the company, on behalf of people who feel their LTD
claims were unfairly denied or terminated.
For more information on the suit, contact attorney Jon Holder
at 207-774-2899, or by e-mail at
Ampligen study enrolled
Hemispherx Biopharma, Inc., maker of the experimental drug
Ampligen, has fully enrolled its ongoing Phase III clinical study on Ampligen as
a treatment for CFIDS.
The tests are being conducted on 230 patients at 13 sites
The study is double-blinded and placebo-controlled, which means that neither the
researchers nor the patients will know who is receiving Ampligen and who is
receiving an inert, fake substance. The trial is scheduled to last 64 weeks;
results are to be announced in 2004.
Phase III trials are usually the final step in testing before
manufacturers apply to the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval to
market the drug.
Name change group to present recommendations
The Name Change Working Group, established 2 1/2 years ago by
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), has met monthly to
share information and review and revise recommendations related to a name change
for CFS. The Working Group has drafted a proposal that will be shared with the
DHHS CFS Advisory Committee, once formed (see DC Dispatch, p. 12).
Presently, the name Neuroendocrineimmune Dysfunction Syndrome
is being considered as an alternate term for CFS, and to describe a condition
somewhat broader than the research definition for CFS published in 1994. In
addition to the name itself, the Working Group is also discussing the elements
of a successful campaign to secure widespread adoption and use of a new
The group will share its draft recommendations during a
session held at the American Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’s February
New CFIDS definition written by Canadian panel
A Canadian government panel has created a clinical case
definition for CFS (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or ME) that authors
hope will be used by doctors to better diagnose and treat the disease. The
document, created by the 11-doctor Canadian Expert Consensus Panel, will be
published in early 2003 in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Currently, most doctors use the 1994 CFS case definition
devised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This definition was
written to help standardize research into CFS but was not intended for use by
primary care physicians; doctors on the Canadian panel say they hope their new
guidelines will give these practitioners guidance in dealing with the
Leonard Jason, PhD, a CFIDS researcher from
, has examined the Canadian
document. He calls it an “important new definition,” and says that it may help
doctors and researchers identify a more homogenous patient group. The 1994 case
definition has been frequently criticized for identifying groups of patients
with widely different symptoms, disease progressions and medical