CDC SCANDAL
Updated:    June 24, 2000

NEWS    BACKGROUND    ACTION    LINKS


N E W S
Click on each story's link for further details

Media: Reuters on GAO report -- 24 Jun

GAO Report on CDC scandal confirms gov't negligence and decreased research -- 22 Jun
    Press release from CFIDS Assoc.
    Report's full text:    web page (178 Kb)    Adobe document (PDF)

U.S. CFS Coordinating Committee to meet on July 12 to review the GAO report -- 22 Jun

Senators tackle the CDC -- 29 Feb.

  • Summary report
  • Transcript of entire hearing
  • U.S. House questions the CDC: hearing was held on Feb. 10:

  • CFIDS Association: Dr. Mahy is re-assigned -- 10 Feb
  • Washington Post: Misleading Reports to Hill Blamed on Agency 'Culture' -- 11 Feb
  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution: CDC chief's removal of division head lauded -- 11 Feb
  • U.S. HHS Secretary calls for better bookkeeping at CDC

  • Associated Press -- 8 Feb
  • New investigation by an additional Congress committee (Washington Post) -- 9 Feb
  • Scandal described in Science journal news report -- 6 Feb

    Diversion of gov't funds expands to hantavirus research -- 2 Feb.

  • Washington Post front page article about new diversion of research funds
  • Another apology from CDC Director
    (Associated Press)
  • CFIDS Assoc. press release
  • Renewed call for GAO petition on bias -- 25 Oct 1999

  • Activists meet with CDC (Oct. 13, 1999)
    ( for details see article number 3 in CFS-NEWS #89) -- 13 Oct

  • CDC invites activists to discuss CFS issues at Oct. 13 meeting
    ( for details see last editorial in CFS-NEWS #87) -- 5 Oct 1999

  • CDC whistleblower under attack, says Washington Post -- 6 Aug 1999

  • CFIDS Association press release on CFSCC meeting -- 28 Jul 1999

  • Reuters: "CDC to restore chronic fatigue syndrome funding" -- 27 Jul 1999

  • Initial report on HHS CFS Coordinating Committee special meeting about the CDC scandal -- 26 Jul 1999

  • The Director of the CDC is circulating a plan to address the financial mismanagement. -- 21 Jul 1999

  • The Washington Post has featured another story on the scandal. -- Jul 21

  • GAO will expand investigation to include NIH -- 21 Jul 1999

  • Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) is launching its own investigation of the scandal. -- 15 Jun 1999

  • A petition is being circulated to demand that GAO conduct a full investigation that will address scientific bias and that will also cover NIH. -- 10 Jun 1999


    BACKGROUND

    In an extraordinary turn of events, a noted CDC scientist has publicly charged his own government agency with improperly diverting funds away from authorized CFS research. Since those charges were leveled, the HHS Office of Inspector-General has confirmed them with its own audit, and now Congress's General Accounting Office is launching its own separate investigation. The Director of the CDC has proposed major reforms to preclude such errors from happenning again. The scandal has recently been the subject of Congressional hearings (Feb. 2000).

    Dr. William Reeves, the Center for Disease Control's pointman on CFS research, filed a complaint with the U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector-General in July 1998 to demand an investigation of the diverted funds. CDC administrators then canceled a scheduled study of CFS in youths. Dr. Reeves claimed in a written statement that he was told by another CDC official that when there were fiscal shortfalls in other programs, CDC administrator Dr. Brian Mahy "always made up such deficits with CFS and other similar monies". Reeves detailed that in recent years as many as half or more of the millions of dollars specifically earmarked for CFS research had been secretly diverted to other programs. Reeves claims that the CDC's reports to Congress about these expenditures were in fact false statements. Reeves has filed for protection under the "Whistlerblower's Act", a law that protects the jobs of government employees while they report government waste, fraud or abuse.

    In an Associated Press newswire story about these events, patient leader John Friedlich was quoted as saying that said the predominant attitude among CDC scientists for years has been that CFS "is not important, is not a real illness and they're not going to commit to try to learn more about it." These events were also reported on the front page of the Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor (Sept. 9, 1998), an influential publication read by lawmakers in Washington, DC, and in later stories by the Associated Press (July 1999) and the Washington Post ( May 1999 and July 1999).

    The HHS Inspector-General released a report in May 1999 which confirmed the charges of diversion of funds. Under pressure from the CFS community, the General Accounting Office (GAO, Congress's investigative agency) has announced that it is launching its own investigation of the CDC, which will additionally review CFS issues at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The GAO investigation was promped by a request from Senator Harry Reid.

    Patient groups are circulating a petition and are asking Congress to focus on this issue. The Director of the CDC has issued a statement which offers an apology and outlines a plan to oversee future expenditures of CFS research at CDC, but which does not comment on the charges of scientific bias being leveled by the CFS community.

    The Director of the CDC Jeffrey Koplan held a meeting with CFS advocates on Oct. 13, 1999 to find out what can be done to make amends. Dr. Koplan avoided answering questions about scientific bias and how the diversion of funds came about in the first place. Instead he stated that he would take personal charge of major reforms that would address as many concerns as possible. Most of the CFS leaders who attended the meeting said afterwards that despite whatever promises may have been made by the CDC, they would be looking for results.

    In February 2000, news reports indicated that CDC funds from another research area (hantavirus) had also been diverted, and by the same person who had diverted the CFS funds (Dr. Brian Mahy). A Congressional Commerce subcommittee declared that it would be launching its own investigation of these matters. The U.S. Secretary fo Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, announced that she would be ordering her own reforms.

    At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee (Feb. 10), CDC Director Koplan announced that there would be an additional outside audit of the CDC's accounts, and that Dr. Brian Mahy had been re-assigned away from the CDC division he had been running. The Congressmen expressed faith in the integrity of the CDC Director and his agency, but wanted to know that the problems would be resolved. The CDC Director had a much more difficult time before a Senate hearing on Feb. 29. Senators interrogated Dr. Koplan and apparently did not accept his explanations.

    The GAO released its own report in June 2000 which confirmed the Inspector-General's report, and which also noted a steady decline in CFS research since 1996.

    NEXT STEPS:

  • The CDC will be announcing its complete reform plan in response to the CFS scandal

  • The U.S. CFS Coordinating Committee will hold a special meeting on July 12 to review the GAO report.

    Check this website regularly for further updates to this story.


    CALLS TO ACTION

  • The GAO petition is still being circulated. See its text at http://www.co-cure.org/gao.htm .

  • Demand action from Congress -- call by CFIDS Assoc. -- 19 May 1999

    OPINIONS, VIEWS AND STATEMENTS

  • CFIDS Association's initial response: "Study of Ill Adolescents Shelved by CDC; Sick Kids Become Casualties of Internal CDC Politics that Drive Federal Research Spending on CFS" -- August 1998

  • CFSCC members decry end of CDC pediatric study, due to misdirected funds

  • John Friedlich's essays:
  • Call to action -- Aug. 14, 1998
  • Opportunity and diversity -- Aug. 21, 1998
  • Where Is Accountability? -- Sept. 23, 1998
  • The People Behind the Numbers, by Joan Livingston -- June 1999

  • CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan -- July 22, 1999

    Post suggestions to cfids-l-request@maelstrom.stjohns.edu


    KEY LINKS

    CFIDS Assoc. web page on the CDC Scandal -- The CFIDS Assoc. has been a leader on this issue.

    Original charges leveled by the CDC's Dr. William Reeves

    GAO Report -- completed June 2, 2000, released to the public June 21, 2000

    Inspector-General's Report: full text -- May 10 1999

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This final report points out that of the $22.7 million charged to the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) program during Fiscal Years 1995 through 1998, only about $9.8 million (43 percent) was actually spent on CFS program activities. The remaining $12.9 million (57 percent) was spent on non CFS activities ($8.8 million) or was not documented in sufficient detail for us to discern its applicability to the CFS program ($4.1 million). These questionable charges occurred because of deficiencies in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) internal control system regarding the handling of direct and indirect costs. As a result of this matter, CDC officials have provided inaccurate information to the Congress regarding the use of CFS funds, and have not supported the CFS program to the extent recommended and encouraged by the Congress. Officials of the CDC generally concurred with steps we recommended they take to assure funds are used for their intended purposes.

    PatPM's web page on the scandal

    Mining Company web page on the scandal -- produced by Lisa Lorden

    GAO Petition

    Reuters Health article on GAO report -- Jun 23 2000

    CDC Director's statement -- Jul 23 1999

    Washington Post story -- Jul 21 1999

    GAO begins investigation -- Jul 15 1999

    Associated Press wire story -- 6 Jul 1999

    CFSCC special meeting about scandal on July 26 1999 (announced 24 Jun 1999)

    CDC scandal to be studied by G.A.O. -- 15 Jun 1999

    Washington Post story -- 28 May 1999

    Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) requests a GAO investigation

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