The much-anticipated revision of CDC’s website on ‘ME/CFS’ section “Information for Healthcare Providers” was unveiled July 12, 2018. The main reason for the revision was to adopt and educate medical professionals to diagnose people using the government-sponsored clinical IOM/SEID criteria and to update the toolkit based on current scientific data.
The result of the CDC website update is full of deceptions and in many ways worse than the old toolkit for medical professionals.
Problems and Danger with Adopting and Using the IOM/SEID Criteria
ME advocates have warned that the 2015 government-sponsored IOM/SEID criteria are even worse than the failed and highly criticized government 1994 Fukuda definition. Critics of the Fukuda definition argue that it was overly broad with too much emphasis on the one common symptom ‘fatigue’. The IOM/SEID definition is even more vague. Unlike the Fukuda, it doesn’t specify exclusions which means that many people suffering from primary psychiatric and psychological conditions will get a diagnosis of IOM/SEID.
Even worse, the new criteria do not demand any neurological nor immune dysfunction symptoms! Investigators (Dr. Leonard Jason, Frank Twisk and Asprusten et al) who have looked into the IOM/SEID criteria and published papers comparing it with other definitions have warned that it does not define the neuroimmune disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as defined since 1969 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and coded under Neurological disorders as ICD – G93.3.
The IOM authors clarified this distinction as well. They stated that the entity they were defining was not a neurological one. It was a broader entity with subsets which remain to be defined. They were clearly not defining the distinct disease ME as per our international non-government medical ME experts with their 2011 International Consensus Criteria (ICC). This comparison chart created by the patient organization MEadvocacy.org is an easy visual tool that illuminates the difference.
The danger of using the broad IOM/SEID definition is that the pool of patients diagnosed will be a muddied group. It will be harmful to those who suffer from ME as per ICC and those who suffer from other conditions for which they lack proper diagnosis. To properly treat patients one needs to identify precisely the disease they suffer from. It would be like throwing people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis together under one rubric because they share many of the same symptoms. This conflation would be dangerous because as we know, the treatments are entirely different.
Even more alarming, ‘ME/CFS’ investigators working at NIH funded ‘ME/CFS’ consortia are currently using the clinical IOM/SEID to select their cohorts in their studies! Using this faulty criterion will cause the group to be made up of people suffering from different conditions. The results will be skewed whether searching for a biomarker or successful treatment options. It will be impossible for future researchers, who are unfamiliar with the criteria issues, to duplicate studies as they will have no way to know how to select patients correctly.
Harmful GET recommendation Without the Name Remains on Website
CDC’s previous toolkit for providers recommended graded exercise therapy (GET), stating: “Graded exercise therapy (GET) has shown to be very helpful to some CFS patients. Graded activity and exercise are defined as starting from a very low, basic level of exercise and/or activity and gradually increasing it to a level where people can go about their daily life. NOTE: the level of activity may not be the same as before the CFS diagnosis.”
CDC’s current toolkit treatment section recommends: “Patients who are tolerating their current level of activity and have learned to “listen to their bodies” might benefit from carefully increasing exercise to improve their physical fitness and avoid deconditioning Some healthcare providers with expertise in ME/CFS refer their patients to an exercise physiologist who understands ME/CFS and uses an individualized and flexible approach to advancing activity levels.” [bolding for emphasis]
CDC is in effect still educating doctors to recommend people with ‘ME/CFS’ exercise incrementally. This description is what graded exercise is, and it is genuinely devious of CDC who many in the community have hailed for supposedly removing GET from their toolkit, only to see them re-introducing it in a concealed manner. ME advocates and patients who have been on this road with CDC for decades are not surprised at their repeated deceptions. Their malfeasance has no bounds, and they will do anything to cover-up the reality of the neuroimmune disease ME which has appeared in many worldwide outbreaks and the sporadic form.
Dangers of Conflation Which Result in the Burial of ME
CDC states: “There is no consensus on whether CFS and ME are synonyms, different spectrums of the same illness, or distinct conditions.”
These words describe the crux of the problem with the government’s attempts to cover-up ME. It benefits HHS to keep it all a big, muddied, confused heap of nothing. It has been their intention from the start – to make ‘CFS’ go away. As a 1994 letter obtained through FOIA effort by advocate Craig Maupin from NIAID’s Dr. Straus to Dr. Fukuda states:
“I’ve felt for some time, Kieji, that those that have CFS are at a certain point along a continuum of illness in which fatigue is either the most dominant symptom or the most clearly articulated by virtue of impression on the part of the patient or physician that such a complaint is important. I predict that fatigue itself will remain the subject of considerable interest but the notion of a discrete form of fatiguing illness will evaporate. We would then, be left with Chronic Fatigue that can be distinguished as Idiopathic or Secondary to an identifiable medical or psychiatric disorder. I consider this a desirable outcome.“
HHS and its agencies have purposefully acted to conceal the fact that this is a distinct disease with its distinguished history. They have repeatedly misbranded (CFS, ME/CFS, SEID), misdefined (Fukuda, Reeve’s, IOM/SEID) the disease to keep the confusion going. They have also falsely combined ME with CFS as in ME/CFS to perpetuate the confusion. It’s like calling a disease lung cancer/cold!
In the same vein, HHS repeatedly refuses (in contrast with other diseases) to accept and adopt criteria created by the international non-government experts in the disease [Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC) and ICC] which clarify and distinguish ME. With the same concealment tactic, CDC erased our experts’ criteria CCC and ICC from their resource section.
Other Tactics Used by CDC to Minimize the Disease
- CDC prides itself on the use of evidence-based scientific data, yet they state on their new website “Some patients return to full function” as if that is a scientifically proven fact. Which evidence-based studies is CDC relying on when making this positive statement? I would argue that there is more evidence of people with ME #(pwME) dying from ME than fully recovering from the disease.
- In their Spectrum of ‘ME/CFS,’ CDC states: “For example, patients mildly impaired by ME/CFS may be able—with careful planning and activity management—to keep a job or continue their education, participate in social and family activities, and attend to daily life.” This statement gives the false impression that pwME if managed well, can perform normal activities of life. It is a false assumption and does not ring true with pwME. For an ME diagnosis, pwME need to have extensive reductions in previous activity. Activity management might ensure that they do not aggravate their condition and avoid crashing but, it does not improve their base condition.
- CDC states: “From a clinical perspective, case definitions are used to make the appropriate diagnosis and guide therapy and management. From a research perspective, case definitions are used to identify the appropriate study population. Multiple case definitions may be required for different applications and can co-exist if there is a good understanding of how they are being used.” Historically, HHS has conflated the purpose of criteria. They have used definitions whose goal was for research, in clinical settings and vice versa. ‘ME/CFS’ investigators are already using the clinical IOM/SEID definition for studies at the NIH funded ‘ME/CFS’ research consortia – despite assurances it by HHS they would solely be used for clinical purposes!
- In CDC’s attempt to conceal any possibility of an infections agent playing a role in ME, they have omitted the history of ME and the fact that it appears in the epidemic for with 50+ worldwide outbreaks.
It is alarming to see this revised CDC criteria in 2018 – more than 30 years after CDC was called down to investigate the massive Lake Tahoe outbreak. The name, definition and data do not reflect the findings at Lake Tahoe nor the WHO 1969 defining ME under neurological disorders nor the 2011 International Consensus Criteria defining the distinct disease ME.
ME advocates worldwide are rightfully aligning in their fight against the PACE Trial with their recommendation of the harmful treatments of graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. ME advocates need to do the same with CDC’s revised website which is deceptive because like the Emperor’s New Clothes – it is just more of the same wrongdoing. ME advocates need to rigorously fight CDC’s dangerous recommendation of GET and their use of the vague IOM/SEID definition which will result in the burial of the distinct disease myalgic encephalomyelitis.