NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Funds Allocated To Study Non-Disease Disappear

July 7, 1999

Observers say officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never took the so-called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) seriously. But they paid lip service to it in testimony before Congress and walked away with $22.7 million to research it. Now, more than half that sum has been misplaced and misspent, according to an inspector general's report.

  • An audit report in May accused CDC officials of providing "inaccurate and potentially misleading information to Congress concerning the cost and scope of CFS research activities."
  • In a complaint, a CDC doctor accused the then-acting CDC Director Claire Broome of providing false information to Congress when she testified that part of the research money was spent on a new laboratory in the doctor's department -- since the lab was never built.
  • The doctor also claims a CDC division director transferred funds from the CFS program to research areas he deemed more important.
  • Rep. John Edward Porter (R-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee overseeing the affair and one of the first members of Congress to call for CFS research, now says he would have had no problem "if they had come back to us and said look, they don't think there is any good research we can follow here, this is not a good use of the money."

CFS is often called "yuppie flu" and doctors admit that it is often the diagnosis of choice when they don't know what a patient really has. Some don't believe it even exists. It is said to be characterized by muscle and joint pain, headaches, memory loss and general malaise. Researchers say it is difficult to diagnose because it consists of a group of elusive symptoms.

Source: Laura R. Vanderkam, "'Yuppie Flu' Funds Missing at CDC," Washington Times, July 7, 1999.


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