Agency Activities: CDC Scandal
In May 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
These issues are being addressed