Sunday, June 3, 2012

Corrupted TLAs and The State of Health-Science

When it emerged in the late 1990s that the agency [CDC] had been diverting funds designated for CFS to other programs and then lying to Congress about it, Dr. Reeves—who was in charge of the program while the financial irregularities were taking place–sought and received whistle-blower protection.

Two years after the CDC issued its 1994 case definition, Osler’s Web was published to strong reviews. The book documented how the CDC routinely diverted money slated for CFS research to other projects because of lack of concern about the illness. (The CDC did not officially comment on the book at the time, according to a CDC spokeswoman.) Two years later, Dr. Reeves leveled similar charges against his superiors, noting that the CDC lied to Congress about how it spent CFS funding; he received whistleblower protection.

In his statement, he reported that, for example, in 1996 the agency spent $1.2 million for laboratory equipment and supplies for measles and polio and charged it to the CFS account. In 1995, he reported, the agency charged the CFS program $2.6 million for funding spent on unrelated studies. He had, he stated “attempted to rectify this within CDC” before going public.

“I believe that CDC has intentionally misrepresented monies allocated to CFS research and I cannot ethically support this,” wrote Dr. Reeves in his public statement. “The misrepresentations involve systematically charging between $400,000 and $2 million incurred by unrelated activities to CFS between 1995-97 and reporting to DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services], Congress and patients that the monies were used for CFS research.”

A 1999 report from the inspector general of HHS found that of the $22.7 million the CDC charged to its CFS program between 1995 and 1998, less than half was clearly spent on the illness. The report noted: “CDC spent significant portions of CFS funds on the costs of other programs and activities unrelated to CFS and failed to adequately document the relevance of other costs charged to the CFS program…As a result of these inappropriate charges, CDC officials provided inaccurate information to Congress regarding the use of CFS funds.”

The inspector general’s report found that $8.8 million was spent on non-CFS projects and that the documentation on an additional $4.1 million was so poor that it was impossible to determine whether they were used to support CFS research or not. Even as the CDC shortchanged the CFS program, the report noted, it disregarded Congressional requests to support important research initiatives. As an example, the report noted that Congress had urged the CDC to expand its surveillance of CFS among adolescents and to hire a neuroendocrinologist “to enable expansion of its research efforts and pursue promising findings from other Federal agencies and the private sector.”

At the time of the inspector general’s report, however, the CDC had halted an ongoing adolescent study and had not hired an endocrinologist—even as allocated money wasn’t being spent. The report noted: “Internal correspondence… indicated that delays were forced due to a ‘lack of available funds.’ Yet, we found that large portions of budgeted CFS funds had been held in reserve by the Division Director during the year, and were not released until after the deadline for obligations had passed. Thus, while important enhancements were not being implemented, more than $850,000 of FY 1998 budgeted funds were never made available to the program.”

In the wake of the scandal, Dr. Reeves’ boss left his position; the agency agreed to reform its accounting practices and restore more than $12 million to the CFS program over the next several years. Although Dr. Reeves’ whistleblower status effectively solidified his position at the CDC, his statement didn’t answer all outstanding questions. Given the revelations from Osler’s Web in 1996, it seemed unlikely to many patients and advocates that key officials at the agency could have been unaware of accounting irregularities–especially since they apparently continued through 1998, according to the federal investigators.

Kim McCleary, the head of the CFIDS Association of America, testified that the CFS program, based on a review of the CDC financial documents that the committee had sought, suffered from “shameful scientific leadership, zero accountability, invisible outcomes and millions and millions of dollars stuck in suspended animation, if not wasted…Only the government contractors seem to be benefiting from millions spent for which there are no worthwhile outcomes for American taxpayers, or CFS patients.”

The largest chunk of the program’s funding, reported McCleary, went to a single private research organization, Abt Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in sole-source or no-bid contracts for the epidemiologic research that was being widely criticized by other scientists. At least $2.7 million committed to Abt was “in limbo”–obligated to specific projects but remaining unspent—and work on other projects was proceeding slowly and at great cost, she testified. The financial mismanagement, testified McCleary, “has resulted in program management coming often to this committee and telling other investigators that no funds are available for new projects or collaborations.”
The CDC? Corrupted. Psychopathologizing illnesses they don't want to understand.
The NCI? Corrupted. Faking XMRV research, while siphoning off billions for cancer research that goes nowhere.
The NIH? Corrupted. An dog-don't-eat-dog umbrella organization.
The WPI? Corrupted. Pushing their "Neuro-Immune" woo.
The USDA? Corrupted. Their nutritional advise is positively malicious.
The AHA? Corrupted. In league with the USDA.
The APA? Corrupted. Psychopathologizing society.
And then there is an army of freelance quacks.

Have I forgot anybody? I'm sorry if I hurt somebodies feelings by leaving them out – my bad.

The best health advise is to stop smoking, start eating something resembling Paleo, vaccinate, go only to doctors for problems you know they can help with (emergencies, surgical, dental, and so on) and otherwise stay as far away from these quacks as possible – and hope you will never get an chronic disease that forces you to use the services of these hacks.

PS: In case you think I sound like I'm filled with bitterness – that's because I am.

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