CDC’s Staged Call

recording studio

I wish to thank advocate Eileen Holderman for her consultation with this blog post.

In 2012, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instituted the “ME/CFS Stakeholder Engagement and Communication conference calls (SEC)” (previously called PCOCA) series with the stated purpose of sharing information with those interested in ME/CFS as part of their regular outreach and communications efforts. These calls are billed as a form of engagement with the community, but this is just by name – not reality.

CDC’s Phantom Engagement

CDC’s claims of transparency and stated desire to engage with the ME/CFS community is debunked by their consistent underhanded actions.  Their “engagement” call is, in fact, an hour-long one-sided communication.  CDC placed all callers – a group of very sick disabled people – in a silent mode for the hour-long call. CDC falsely alleged they can’t take live calls when many large government events take live questions all the time.

CDC’s 60-minute call devoted 50 minutes to their invited speakers – leaving only a couple of minutes in the end to cover the many crucial questions sent in by ME patients and advocates.  CDC kept us in the dark as to whose questions they selected – never giving us the actual names.

CDC refuses to make the recordings available on their website, even though they tell us that they are being recorded.  CDC is very well aware that this is a community of people who are severely sick and it is too taxing for them to listen in at the appointed time and for a full hour-long call.

Conclusions about CDC’s lack of engagement and consideration of people with ME:

  • CDC stages the call so that they are in complete control of the narrative
  • CDC manipulates the timing of the call as to leave minimal time for public questions
  • CDC refuses to take live calls because they are apprehensive of challenging questions
  • CDC is more concerned about the perception of engagement than an actual one
  • CDC is not worried about federal rules that call for accommodations for the disabled
  • CDC does not want a record of the meeting because they want to avoid activists’ criticism

 

November 2, 2017, CDC Call

The latest  CDC call took place on November 2, 2017.  The topic was:“Take Home Messages from the 2015 Institute of Medicine Report on ME/CFS” with Drs. Lucinda Bateman, Ellen Clayton, and Peter Rowe.  All three speakers served on the IOM panel to create new government-sponsored criteria and a new name – systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).

Background of the HHS/IOM Implementation and Stakeholders’ Protests

October 2012

In October 2012, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) sent the following recommendation to Dr. Sebelius, the Secretary of The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):  “CFSAC recommends that you will promptly convene (by 12/31/12 or as soon as possible thereafter) at least one stakeholders’ (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)experts, patients, advocates) workshop  in consultation with CFSAC members to reach a consensus for a case definition useful for research, diagnosis and treatment of ME/CFS beginning with the 2003 Canadian Consensus  Definition for discussion purposes.”

HHS highjacked and distorted CFSAC’s recommendation, turning their backs on their own advisory committee of experts.  In Septemeber 2013, HHS secretly contracted, sponsored and charged the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to create yet again, another government-controlled clinical definition and a new name for the disease.  Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) stakeholders were outraged at HHS’ deception and exploitation.  Fifty International ME researchers and clinicians wrote an open letter to Secretary Sebelius urging her to stop the IOM contract and to adopt the 2003 Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC) for clinical and research purposes.  Sixty six ME advocates worldwide signed a letter in support of the Experts’ Letter.   ME patients sent letters to their congressional representatives with the same message – stop the IOM, adopt the CCC.

But, HHS continued to disregard the voice of the international ME community and ignored the continued protests taking place such as a new letter dated December 2013 signed by 197 professionals and advocates with detailed objections to the IOM process.  Advocates also continued their protests in the form of public testimonies at the IOM January 13, 2014, open meeting (see article here).

In February 2015, the IOM panel published their report including new clinical criteria and a new name – systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). The new criteria have been heavily criticized by CFSAC, experts, advocates, and patients for:

  • no list of exclusions
  • no objective tests and measures
  • not including exhaustion of the central nervous system after minor physical activity
  • omitting core symptoms such as pain and immune dysfunction
  • the core symptom of cognitive dysfunction is only listed as an option.
  • signs of the infectious nature of the disease such as flu-like symptoms, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and headaches are absent
  • no autonomic and neuroendocrine symptoms
  • no specificity toward different stages and levels of the disease

In the preface to the ICC, its authors state: “There is a poignant need to untangle the web of confusion caused by mixing diverse and often overly inclusive patient populations in one heterogeneous, multi-rubric pot called ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’. We believe this is the foremost cause of diluted and inconsistent research findings, which hinders progress, fosters skepticism, and wastes limited research monies.

The new IOM clinical criteria are just another in the string of CDC vague, overly inclusive criteria which have and will continue to confuse and hinder progress in the science and understanding of ME.   In Dr. Leonard Jason’s estimation, the IOM criteria are even broader than the previous CDC criteria – the Fukuda definition.

Alarmingly, the new clinical criteria are now being recommended and used for research.  Dr. Bateman, who served on the IOM panel to create the new vague clinical criteria, has stated she will be using the IOM definition in her studies at the new  NIH ME/CFS Collaborative Research Centers – disregarding the false promise that it will only be used for diagnostic purposes – never for research!

Pushing and Defending the IOM Criteria

Dr. Lee, the previous DFO of CFSAC,  stated at one of their meetings – ‘it is not the job of the government to create definitions for diseases, it has to come from the community of experts.’  Yet, since the 1980’s the CDC has perpetually ignored the name and criteria authored by experts and has produced one faulty definition after another (Holmes, Fukuda, Fukuda, and IOM).

ME experts have developed and have successfully been using the CCC and the International Consensus Criteria (ICC) for years in clinical practice and for research.  It is the government who has repeatedly refused to do so – opting instead to use their own faulty CDC definitions.

CDC refuses to adopt the ME experts’ definitions citing that it is too hard for clinicians to understand. Ironically, Dr. Bateman defended the weaker IOM definition with its 280-page report! She advised clinicians to look at selected chapters of the report to find what should have been part of the core symptoms of the disease.  In reality, reinforcing the fact that the new criteria are inadequate and impractical.

CDC’s patient engagement call was an epic fail.  It was a long infomercial for the faulty CDC/IOM criteria. It was a farce as far as engagement is concerned – there was none!  They refrained from making accommodations to a community of disabled and cognitively challenged people. They falsely claimed they could not take live questions.  They spent a few minutes, in the end, answering four questions for which the origin is unknown.

CDC did not answer these questions – among many others:

Question for Dr. Bateman – from Gabby Klein

You were an author of the 2011 International Consensus Criteria (ICC) which recommended removing CFS from ME.  The ICC states the following: “Not only is it common sense to extricate ME patients from the assortment of conditions assembled under the CFS umbrella, it is compliant with the WHO classification rule that a disease cannot be classified under more than one rubric”.

You were an author of the IOM criteria as well which stated regarding coding: “A new code should be assigned to this disorder in the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), that is not linked to “chronic fatigue” or “neurasthenia.”

Since the IOM report did not ask to replace the WHO classification of ME, do you, therefore, agree that the IOM criteria do not define the disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)?

Question for Dr. Bateman – from Colleen Steckel

The IOM panel was charged by its sponsor, HHS, to ”recommend clinical diagnostic criteria that would address the needs of healthcare providers, patients, and their caregivers.”  In addition, in an interview with Phoenix Rising regarding the IOM criteria, Dr. Bateman stated: “SEID criteria are intended for current use, for doctors to do better at making the diagnosis in a clinical setting. There was no discussion of anything but using them for this purpose.”

Yet, NIH is currently recommending the use of the IOM criteria for their new ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) competitive consortium grants.  Can you explain why new clinical criteria will now be used for research?

The expert criteria ICC would ensure the disease myalgic encephalomyelitis would be the focus of any studies.

Question for Dr. Unger – from Colleen Steckel

Are there any plans to address the concerns raised by MEadvocacy.org in their recent blog labeled “CDC’s Website Revision is No Reason for Celebration”?

Patients continue to be told by doctors that this is just a fatigue illness and refuse to look into immunological, cardiology, and neurological issues.  Patients continue to fend for themselves with little care from mainstream doctors. This continues to lead to despair and suicide within the community.  The CDC needs to do much more in order to change this reality.

Questions to Dr. Unger – from Eileen Holderman

What are the official case definitions for ME that CDC endorses for research and clinical?

As former CFSAC member and Chair of Subcommittee for CDC Website Review, when will CDC take down Toolkit and Resource Guide from the CDC website Stacks? 

Questions from Guido Den Broeder

(1) Will you please once more distinguish between ME and CFS, as you did before?

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (at G93.3 in the ICD-10) is a specific post-viral brain disorder. Much is known about its causes, diagnostics, and treatment.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (R53.82 in the ICD-10-CM) is a term for unexplained fatigue and malaise. It is not a disease. In clinical practice, patients with a variety of diseases start out with a diagnosis of CFS, even though this is not a clinical diagnosis.

(2) What are you going to do to prevent ME?

Will Coxsackie B be added to polio vaccinations?

Are you going to follow mononucleosis patients and test their immune system for post-mono abnormalities?

(3) What are you going to do to reduce the clinical use of the CFS label?

Will you increase awareness among physicians of diseases such as ME, EDS, Lyme, Hashimoto, etc.?

Are you going to promote the clinical use of the SEID label as defined by the IOM?

These are only some of the many questions from patients and advocates that CDC has not answered!

 

 

 

Resisting Attempts to Silence #PwME

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Methods of Silencing Dissent to Control a Specific Agenda

Globally, government agencies and officials as well as private sector companies, and organizations use known astroturfing and silencing methods to achieve their intended goals.  They use media to spread propaganda to manipulate opinions. They employ specific tactics to squash dissent to institute their desired agenda. 

In the myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) community, this method of controlling a specific intention is used by government health agencies, medical interest groups, and those supporting them.  They advance the false narrative that ME is not a distinct disease but, a collection of fatiguing conditions.  They also perpetuate the myth that ME is imagined – a functional somatic condition.

This government deceit harms people with ME (pwME).  The underhanded conflation of ME with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), chronic fatigue (CF), and psychosomatic conditions results in falsely depicting the disease as a benign condition, possibly just in the mind of the patients.  The medical community has therefore in the main dismissed this ‘vague condition,’ neglecting to care or study it. 

Those whose interest lies in perpetuating this myth because of financial benefits or other motives use established methods to advance their biased goals by spreading misinformation and falsely accusing those who dare to speak out about the malfeasance. 

Methods of Silencing a Group of Activists

Ron Duchin, research analyst at Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin Inc., in Washington DC, created and utilized specific techniques to break up activists groups who were fighting for social justice such as environmental groups, animal rights groups and consumer affairs groups. His famous legacy was breaking up civil rights activists groups fighting the tobacco industry.  He later used this plan advising other industry giants in how to fight any dissent which was adversely affecting their objectives.

Duchin explained that activists fall into four categories: radicals, opportunists, idealists and realists, and that a three-step strategy was needed to bring them down.

  • First, you isolate the radicals; those who are vocal in their desire to change the corrupt system and promote social justice. Then use methods of character assassination to discredit them – such as exaggerations, lies, trumped up charges to marginalize them.
  • Second, you carefully cultivate the idealists; those who are quieter and are not as direct in their methods and objectives as the radicals. You do this by gently persuading them that their advocacy has negative consequences for some groups, thus transforming them into realists.
  • Finally, you co-opt the realists (the pragmatics willing to work within the system) into compromise. “The realists should always receive the highest priority in any strategy dealing with a public policy issue . . . If your industry can successfully bring about these relationships, the credibility of the radicals will be lost, and opportunists can be counted on to share in the final policy solution.” Opportunists, those who are motivated by power, success, or a sense of their celebrity, will be satisfied merely by a sense of partial victory.

Astroturfing Methods to Manipulate and Control an Agenda

What is astroturfing? (Astroturf and manipulation of media messages by Sharyl Attkisson – see video here)

Astroturfing is the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists. Multiple online identities and fake pressure groups are used to mislead the public into believing that the position of the astroturfer is the commonly held view.  The goal is to neutralize any opposition.

Tactics:

  • give the impression that there is widespread support for or against an agenda when there’s not
  • seek to manipulate and change opinions by making some feel like outliers when they’re not
  • seek to malign those who openly disagree with the intended view
  • attack those who publish articles they don’t like or whistleblowers who tell the truth
  • intentionally shove so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix that you are left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it, including the truth

How to Recognize Signs of Propaganda and Astroturfing

  • use of inflammatory language such as crank, quack, nutty, lies, paranoid, pseudo and conspiracy theorists
  • personal attacks on individuals and organizations surrounding an issue rather than addressing the facts
  • reserve all public skepticism for those exposing wrongdoing rather than the wrongdoers
  • instead of questioning authority, question those who question authority.

Methods of controlling an agenda and minimizing dissent in the ME Community

  • Labeling ME patients with a demeaning name – chronic fatigue syndrome – to reduce impact and cause marginalizing of patients (See HHS Refuses to Correct their Wrongful Branding).
  • Defining the disease with government-produced vague criteria which include many who suffer from fatiguing, psychiatric, psychological and other conditions, – with the aim of burying the neuroimmune disease ME. Then, accuse #pwME of somaticizing and catastrophizing. 
  • Quieting criticism by spreading rumors that the patients are an “angry and crazy” group –  rumors that are never substantiated with evidence – to legitimize their own biased objectives and to dissuade clinicians and researchers from treating patients and studying the disease.
  • Media articles that miseducate about the disease and misrepresent the community such as this article in the Guardian titled “Chronic fatigue syndrome researchers face death threats from militants.” The author uses classic astroturfing methods when writing: “In addition, activists – who attack scientists who suggest the syndrome has any kind of psychological association – have bombarded researchers with freedom of information requests, made rounds of complaints to university ethical committees about scientists’ behaviour, and sent letters falsely alleging that individual scientists are in the pay of drug and insurance companies.”  Notice the inflammatory language: “attack” – for disagreeing; “bombarded” – for requesting information from the government as if that is a terrorist act; “falsely alleging” – when there is actual evidence.
  • Mis-educating by highlighting the ‘fatigue’ element of the disease (even though it is just one symptom of many in this systemic disease).  Choosing to educate the misconception that this is a condition of the mind even though science proves otherwise. Encouraging harmful treatments such as GET and CBT which still appear on CDC’s website (see toolkit and guide to medical professionals) Educating with overly broad, inaccurate criteria as in the revised CDC website promoting the IOM criteria.  (See “CDC’s Website Revision is No Reason for Celebration”)
  • Marginalizing or disparaging clinicians and researchers who show interest in treating or studying the disease, by denying their applications for government funding and refusing their requests to serve on federal committees. Dr. Jose Montoya, a professor at Stanford University and one of the leading ME clinicians and researchers today, told The Guardian what his mentor told him when starting his work with ME patients:  “You are committing academic suicide. You’re turning your career into a mess.  
  • Giving the illusion that patients have a platform for input and engagement when in reality their voice is consistently ignored.  HHS creates puppet committees and working groups, such as the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) and various working groups yet, very few (if any) of their members’ recommendations are implemented.  Stakeholders’ oral and written testimonies to CFSAC are sought but readily ignored and dismissed.
  • Threatening those who dare to ask critical questions – as in the threat of eviction of three CFSAC voting members – two of which went public – Eileen Holderman (patient advocate)and Dr. Mary Ann Fletcher (scientist) (See video here, letter from advocates calling for an investigation here).
  • Rewarding those who support the biased government agenda by giving them preferential treatments, whether with a coveted seat at the table or with funding opportunity perks.  Some in the co-opted interest groups aid the government with attempts to silence opposing voices by telling them not to complain and to ignore the malfeasance.
  • Rejecting grant applications to fund biomedical research, in deference to studies using a psychological/psychiatric view.  World renown ME investigators, such as Drs. Ronald Davis, Ian Lipkin, Nancy Klimas, Jose Montoya, Mark Davis and Robert Naviaux have each received rejections for their research grant applications from NIH. Yet, funding studies by Psychologist Fred Friedberg, Ph.D. such as home-based management are accepted (See study).

As currently seen with the University of Bristol Professor Esther Crawley’s upcoming TEDx talk “Dare to Disrupt”, the desire by these groups to propagate their false narrative about ME is powerful.  In her write up on TEDex website, Crawley writes: “I dare to disrupt because …We need to disrupt views of this illness.Those who are ill with CFS/ME do not have a voice – they are too unwell. We need to provide their voice, and we need to speak up about this illness. Because we, as a community, as a society, as friends, as neighbors and as parents should look after children who suffer.

Yet, the ME community did not choose Crawley to be their voice.  The opposite is true. Esther Crawley is a proponent of the unscientific GET, CBT, and lightning process treatments in children with ME and is involved in studies using these harmful therapies.  She was an author on a study which promoted the diagnosis of pervasive refusal syndrome (PRS) for children with severe ME.  UK patients and advocates have spoken out against these studies taking place because of their potential for harm. Crawley fought back by using the astroturfing method of character assassination. She spread allegations that she was being attacked and harassed by ME patients.  These charges were debunked by Tyme Trust who obtained FOI requests from the University which revealed that no reports of harassment were made (See Adam Lowe’s article, “Esther Crawley claims harassment, university has no record”).

The nefarious methods of control by those with a false narrative about myalgic encephalomyelitis and their supporters will continue. To prevent the disappearing of ME, we need to recognize and expose these treacherous acts.  Our advocacy efforts should focus on demanding the use of proper criteria for diagnostic and research purposes ( ME-ICC criteria and ME-ICC Questionnaire), and for appropriate NIH funding ($250mil a year in the US) to effectuate impactful studies leading to an acceptable biomarker as well as FDA approved treatments for #pwME.

References:

Astroturf and manipulation of media messages | Sharyl Attkisson – video –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYAQ-ZZtEU&feature=youtu.be

Transcript of the Attkinson’s video https://www.facebook.com/notes/anne-liconti/transcript-astroturf-and-manipulation-of-media-messages-sharyl-attkisson-tedxuni/10155251065525277?hc_location=ufi

Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin: destroying tobacco control activism from the inside – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1763840/pdf/v011p00112.pdf

Beware of Articles About ME That Conceal Support for GET/CBT

Truth lies

Please note – the name chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is used on this blog only because that was the name used in the article it refers to.  I and other ME advocates promote the use of the proper name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) for this complex neuro immune disease.

I have seen articles and blogs widely shared and recommended by patient advocates and organizations which appear on the surface to be factual and affirmative yet, on close inspection contain misinformation about myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and even include recommendations for harmful treatments such as graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

One such example is the September 2017 article in PTinMotion – “The Real Story About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” by Eric Ries.  Ries tells the story of Nicole Rabanal, a ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ (CFS) patient, who is also a physical therapist (pt).  Rabanal was a previous skeptic of CFS which she believed to be a catch all term used when medical practitioners did not know what is wrong with a patient. But, when she, herself, became sick in 2014 – suddenly feeling like she was “hit by a truck” and eventually receiving an official diagnosis of CFS – she becomes a believer and understands that this is a real organic disease.

Rabanal, having worked as a physical therapist for 25 years uses her pt skills to treat herself and then other CFS patients as well.  She demonstrates the importance of listening and understanding the signs of when one is pushing beyond their limit and recommends appropriate exercise and stretching routines to avoid harmful effects.

Rabanal explains that due to her disease she can only work two hours at a time with modifications,  “I sit a lot, and lean or move to help manage my orthostatic intolerance—which does not allow me to stand still, unsupported, for more than 5 minutes.”  These physical adaptations and pacing is a lesson for every patient dealing with this disease because overdoing it has damaging, at times permanent, consequences.

But, Rabanal continues with damaging advice to other physical therapists. Her message about recognizing and assigning patients a CFS label using a simple list of symptoms taken from the IOM criteria has dire consequences.  She doesn’t recommend that PTs send patients who they suspect of suffering from the disease to a specialist for a full work-up with tests to exclude possible differential diagnoses, to enable a proper diagnosis.

This has been one of the many reasons why so many in the ME community are opposed to the use of the IOM diagnostic criteria.  HHS charged an IOM panel to create yet another government sponsored definition of the disease with a simple checklist of a few symptoms and no exclusions. This will cause a major overdiagnosis and will further murky the waters of what this disease truly is.  That is why ME advocates and ME organizations prefer and recommend the International Consensus Criteria (ICC) which were created by ME experts for diagnostic and research purposes.

The piece continues its decline when the author contacts other PTs and quotes their views about CFS and how PT’s should treat them.  Although the report warns of PACE’s pitfalls recommending GET and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), it goes on to recommend both of these (first in hidden than in overt forms).

  • .. “the last piece is to get patients into longer-duration activities by way of gradually building on anaerobic training—while recognizing that the prognosis for full functional recovery is very guarded and limited.”
  •  “When an individual gets that super-malaise from exertion, that can foster kinesiophobia, or fear of movement,” .. “If you can empower the patient to find movements that don’t trigger that, while correlating to patient-identified problems and impairments that you’ve noted, your therapeutic alliance with that patient improves, along with the prognosis“.

The article goes on to portray CFS patients as ‘depressed’ and ’emotionally charged’ (these are common code words used by psych lobby in an attempt to highjack organic disease)

  •  “Ninety percent of our patients with chronic fatigue syndrome start crying during this process (the interview), simply because we’re spending time with them, taking them seriously, and demonstrating that we care about them as human beings.
  • You almost need to be part psychologist, to ensure that they get the most out of their treatment sessions.”
  • “While her husband and kids were eating dinner, she was crying in bed by herself,”

The resource section at the bottom of the article reveals serious and damaging lies about the disease, including strong endorsements for harmful treatments that may cause permanent damage as well as death to ME patients!

Physical Therapist’s Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome This guide promotes exercise for CFS patients.  There are no proper scientific studies proving that exercise is beneficial to ME patients.  Moreover, science, as well as patient testimonies, have shown exercise to be harmful to patients suffering from ME

Mayo Clinic – on CFS – This site is full of outdated information and still features the faulty CDC Fukuda Criteria.  For treatments, they recommend antidepressants, GET and CBT!

“Exercise As Treatment for Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”

This is a Cochrane review with the following author’s conclusion:
“Patients with CFS may generally benefit and feel less fatigued following exercise therapy, and no evidence suggests that exercise therapy may worsen outcomes. A positive effect with respect to sleep, physical function and self-perceived general health has been observed, but no conclusions for the outcomes of pain, quality of life, anxiety, depression, drop-out rate and health service resources were possible. The effectiveness of exercise therapy seems greater than that of pacing but similar to that of CBT. Randomised trials with low risk of bias are needed to investigate the type, duration and intensity of the most beneficial exercise intervention.”

There are so many articles, blogs, and papers which spread inaccuracies and misconceptions of the disease.  They have caused great harm to ME patients and have given fodder to those who want to spread the lies that this is an imaginary syndrome trumped up by emotionally charged women.  As advocates, we need to weed out those that will perpetuate this harm and only promote those that are factual.

 

Eileen Holderman, CFSAC Comment – January 13, 2017

Good morning to the Committee Members and to the stakeholders.

I’m Eileen Holderman, an advocate for ME, GWI, and other neuroimmune diseases.

I formally served as the Patient Advocate on CFSAC and chaired 2 subcommittees – one was for the review and improvement of the CDC Web Site.

While I believe advocates’ efforts should always be ongoing to improve Government policies, I am dismayed when I see efforts that are redundant and seemingly futile. Specifically, I am referring to the efforts advocates are asked to make in regard to the TDW for the improvement of the CDC Web Site, not only because of my subcommittee’s work for 4 years, but because of the efforts of all my predecessors.

Today, I will read into the public record excerpts from an open letter I wrote to Dr. Beth Unger of CDC, at the time I completed my 4 year term on CFSAC.

Here are excerpts, which unfortunately, still apply today:

Dear Dr. Unger:

As I prepared to write my thank you letter, I checked out the CDC Web Site so my final remarks would be accurate. To my surprise and dismay, I noticed CDC created a new web page to feature May 12 Awareness Day. I say ‘surprise’ because there was no mention of it to me or my Review Panel; and there was an opportunity to mention it as recent as last Friday during my Subcommittee Teleconference when I asked if there were any announcements from HHS – you will recall that my inquiry was met with an awkward silence. Had CDC communicated to me that they planned to feature May 12 Awareness Day with the erroneous content of the CDC Web Site, I would have objected. Furthermore, our national and international ME/CFS and FMS organizations do an exceptional job of raising awareness for these diseases so CDC need not undermine those efforts. I appeal to CDC to remove the new web page as advocates have already begun to voice their justified criticisms of the content.

For the past 4 years, my Review Panel and I have made countless suggestions to improve the CDC Web Site. While CDC did make changes to the general sections of the web site, my opinion is that most of the changes were cosmetic, not substantive. The CDC Web Site still resembles a web site for the condition of chronic fatigue instead of a web site for the neuroimmune disease of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (aka CFS).

Below, are my specific (though not my complete list of) recommendations to improve the CDC Web Site that need to be, but have yet to be, implemented:

* remove the Resource Guide

* remove the Toolkit

* remove the expired and needless Emergency Preparedness Webinar

* remove the expired CDC/Medscape video online course

* remove all references to the Oxford Case Definition in the CME online courses

* remove references to CBT

* remove references to GET

* remove references to St. Bart’s and NICE Guidelines

* remove all links to CDC psychosocial published studies on ME/CFS

* remove all implications both subtle and overt to ME/CFS as a psychogenic and/or a fatigue “condition”

Hopefully, the CDC Web Site will get on board with our 50+ ME/CFS experts and adopt the CCC in their CME courses and in all of their content, and reference the 5000+ biomedical papers on ME/CFS, and offer links to the IACFS/ME Primer and the ME ICC Primer and a section on Pediatric ME/CFS. The CDC Web Site needs to reflect the serious, disabling nature of this neuroimmune disease affecting nearly one million American men, women, and children and 17 million worldwide.

Again, thank you for the time and consideration you, Ermias, and John have given me and the Review Panel in regard to improving the CDC Web Site.

Best regards,

Eileen Holderman                                                                                                                                                          

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today and I wish all of you well.

 

CFSAC Comment, Gabby Klein – January 13, 2017

The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) met January 12 and 13, 2017. Here is the meeting agenda.  The following was my call-in testimony.

Hi, my name is Gabby Klein.  I am a patient advocate and blogger.  I have been ill with ME for 14 years.

As I sat down to write, I thought of our current situation as ME patients at the start of the year 2017. I thought about the comparison of the state of  ME patients today to a decade or three ago and became aware that there have been next to no improvements made throughout the years.  Due to HHS neglect and misdeeds, over 30 years after the Lake Tahoe outbreak:

  • Few doctors nationwide have the knowledge and experience necessary to properly diagnose and care for patients.
  • The same harmful GET and CBT therapies continue to be recommended by HHS.
  • There are no FDA-approved drugs.  
  • NIH still spends a minuscule amount of money on a disease with an enormous economic, mortality and quality of life burden.
  • The CDC and other HHS agencies continue to spread incorrect, harmful information on their website and in their continuing medical, educational material.
  • The unscientific and demeaning name, CFS, is still being used and the government still controls and fabricates incorrect and overly broad definitions – like the IOM.
  • HHS continues to cover up their negligence and malfeasance with the creation of more committees, workshops, and working groups – giving the false impression that they are actually doing something for the patients.
  • There is a continuing lack of transparency as well as a withholding of crucial information from the patient community.  The recent incident of NIH’s invitation – by Dr. Walitt with Dr. Nath’s approval, to ME denier Dr. Shorter to lecture on the false history of the disease, was a prime example.
  • False promises are frequent as in Dr. Collins promise of a considerable increase in funding for ME/CFS. It has in reality resulted in mere crumbs – an increase of $7 to 8 million for a million US disabled patients!  Moreover, in his eight years of service as NIH director, Dr. Collins has never mentioned ME/CFS when speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee advising on specific increases in NIH funding.

Until HHS publically apologizes to the ME community for their three decades of neglect and malfeasance and until the time when HHS

  • exclusively uses our expert criteria – such as the CCC, ICC, or Ramsay’s
  • uses the correct name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)
  • properly educates medical practitioners
  • and appropriates NIH funding to the figure of a minimum of $250 million a year- which is on par with other similarly burdened diseases

I will continue to challenge and hold the federal government accountable.

 

Promises, Promises: Thirty Years of NIH Broken Promises

 

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The pattern of 30 years of NIH broken promises to the myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) community is continuing unhindered.  Representatives of the NIH ME/CFS Clinical study and the Trans-NIH Working Group make empty, insincere promises. They assure us that our voice and input is essential when in reality their actions entirely dismiss our view.  More alarmingly, it has become apparent as of late that those at NIH responsible for ME research, doubt the biological nature of the disease.  This unscientific hypothesis will affect every process that NIH takes and the result would adversely affect ME patients for a long time to come.

Recently, ME patients and advocates raised critical concerns with the NIH ME/CFS Study (see MEadvocacy blog: NIH Sidesteps Critical Problems with the ME/CFS Study).  NIH refused to move on adopting the many recommendations outlined to them, some of which were: to include the patients and advocates’ voice in every step of the study starting from the planning stages, removal of problematic NIH investigators who believe that the disease is a somatoform disorder, initiating, and maintaining a transparent and two-way communication process between NIH and the ME community (researchers, clinicians, advocates and patients).

A petition started by MEadvocacy, signed by 750 ME community members, and delivered to NIH Director Francis Collins on February 15, 2016, calling for the cancellation of the proposed NIH ME/CFS Clinical Study and restarting with input from the ME community of patients, advocates, researchers and clinicians was ignored and went unanswered.

The following is a more recent incident showing the same disrespect to the ME community.

Since November 3, 2016, the ME community has contested the scheduled appearance of the ME disease denier Edward Shorter as a lecturer on the history of ME/CFS at The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD.  Patients, advocates, researchers, and patient organizations wrote letters to NIH demanding the cancellation of Shorter’s controversial lecture because of his career of spreading unscientific postulations that ME/CFS is a” psychic epidemic” of women who are attention seekers.

Shorter’s lecture took place on November 9th as scheduled, despite mass protests from the ME community including researchers who tweeted and spoke out.  Below is the reply sent by The Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group to the members of the ME community which is completely unresponsive and dismissive of the ME/CFS community’s opposition. 

Dear members of the ME/CFS community,

You have written to express concern about the NIH lecture by Edward Shorter that took place on November 9th.  Thank you for sending us your thoughts.

Please know that the lecture you asked about was not sponsored by either the ME/CFS Special Interest Group or the Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group, which means that it does not reflect the ideas, opinions, or policy of the NIH or the scientists now working on this disease.  Given the professional and learning environment that NIH promotes, dozens of people come each week to the NIH to exchange ideas with NIH scientists; the scientists who attend these lectures frequently challenge or disagree with the speakers’ ideas. In scientific circles, disagreement with what is said is often more scientifically productive than agreement.  The exchange of information and divergent opinions, followed by critical analysis, is essential to moving any field forward.  The most important thing that we wish to share is that NIH remains firmly committed to using scientific methods to uncover the biological mechanisms that cause ME/CFS and to improve the lives of people who have been suffering for years, and even decades.  Comments made in a seminar will not undermine the progress of science at NIH.

Several of you have asked why the lecture was not mentioned during the telebriefing that NIH hosted on November 2nd.  The telebriefing was intended to discuss the efforts of the Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group and the progress made in initiating the NIH Intramural research clinical study.  The lecture was not part of those efforts.

The speaker shared his viewpoint, the scientists who attended asked questions, and perspective was provided by a patient and a community physician. The lecture was attended by approximately 15 scientists, including some who are part of the clinical study investigative team.  It is fair to say it will have no impact on NIH’s interest in doing everything we can to advance the science of ME/CFS.

Regards,

The Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group

If you pay close attention to the exact verbiage used in this reply, you will see a prime example of government “double-speak” in an attempt to cover up their transgression.

  • “The lecture you asked about was not sponsored by either the ME/CFS Special Interest Group or the Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group”.
    • The use of the word “sponsored” is deceptive.  It implies that the ME/CFS Special Interest Group or the Trans-NIH ME/CFS Working Group didn’t pay for Shorter’s lecture but, it doesn’t tackle the question of who extended the invitation.
  • “Which means that it does not reflect the ideas, opinions, or policy of the NIH or the scientists now working on this disease”
    • The fact that they didn’t “sponsor” Shorter’s lecture does not qualify as proof that it doesn’t reflect the opinions of NIH investigators.  We are keenly aware and have spoken out about the fact that NIH researchers Drs. Walitt, Gill and Saligan, share Shorter’s beliefs that ME is a somatoform disorder. Dr. Walitt has repeatedly quoted and referenced Dr. Shorter in his works and was the one who introduced Shorter at the lecture at NIH.

  • “In scientific circles, disagreement with what is said is often more scientifically productive than agreement.”
    • Yes – a scientific debate is useful and fruitful.  The only problem is that there is nothing scientific about Dr. Shorter’s false beliefs about ME.  It is based on a fantastical myth created in Shorter’s warped mind. 
  • “The most important thing that we wish to share is that NIH remains firmly committed to using scientific methods to uncover the biological mechanisms that cause ME/CFS.”
    • In reality, NIH has not followed through with their words. NIH refused to remove investigators who share Dr. Shorter’s psychogenic views of the disease from the clinical study. In his recent reply to the community, Dr. Koroshetz expresses that Shorter’s viewpoint about ME being psychosomatic is a valuable possibility.
  • “The speaker shared his viewpoint, the scientists who attended asked questions, and perspective was provided by a patient and a community physician.” 
    • Before the lecture, NIH representatives stated that this speech was exclusively for NIH intramural investigators. Outsiders were not permitted to attend.  Somehow one patient and one community physician were present for Shorter’s lecture. Were they used as token representatives so that NIH can “claim” community involvement?

The most important takeaway from this experience is that regardless of whose idea it was to invite (all signs point to Dr. Walitt) Shorter to lecture NIH investigators or who actually “sponsored” it, no one at NIH acted on our opposition and canceled the talk.

Additionally, this ME denier’s fabricated history of ME/CFS which he perceives as a psychogenic social female condition, masked the real history of myalgic encephalomyelitis – starting with several global outbreaks which attest to an infectious component of the disease.  We have many ME historians who are well prepared to lecture about the real historical path of ME.  Professor Malcolm Hooper has written extensively about the history of ME.  Dr. Byron Hyde is an accomplished author writing about the history of ME as well as the science.  Investigative journalist Hillary Johnson authored the acclaimed book Osler’s Web – a well-documented detailed account of the history of the disease. Hillary currently maintains a subscription-based news page, The Eye View, that covers people, politics and scientific developments in the field of ME. History professor, advocate, and patient Dr. Mary Schweitzer is currently writing a book on the history of ME and maintains a blog site, Slightly Alive, where she writes extensively about the historical facts and current events in ME.

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Image created by MEadvocacy.org

Despite Walitt’s psychogenic bias of ME, NIH has refused to remove him from the NIH ME/CFS Clinical Study.  Instead, NIH keeps praising him as in the NIH call November 2 with advocates.  Dr. Nath replying to a question asked by patient advocate Eileen Holderman regarding Walitt remaining in the study replied: “And then Dr. Walitt, yes. So Dr. Walitt is a, you know, delightful individual, very experienced. I have full confidence in him. And so he’s doing a superb job putting this protocol together. He has done all the work in helping me.”

HHS’ disregard of the ME community has become a contemptible pattern – signifying a widespread institutional bias.  Although HHS claims that things have changed, their actions disprove their words.

They disregarded and continue to ignore the ME community’s call for:

  • Adopting and using the correct historical name for the disease – myalgic encephalomyelitis
  • Adopting and using criteria created by our ME experts (CCC, ICC and Ramsay’s)
  • Appropriate funding commensurate with similarly burdened diseases – minimum of $250 million annually ($7 million annual increase is an insult and will not accomplish what is scientifically needed)
  • Proper education about the neuro-immune disease ME (not a fatiguing or somatoform disorder)
  • Real input from ME patients and advocates into the process (as opposed to just a perceived seat at the table)
  • Placement of the disease in one of the many NIH institutes, such as the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). (Incidentally, ME/CFS still appears under the Office of Women’s Health)
  • Acting on the many recommendations by the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC)

It is time to reevaluate this broken relationship which is based on false promises, deception, and mistreatment. There is no urgency emerging from NIH in the face of this disabling disease that leaves an estimated million American men, women and children disabled, with no end in sight – many die in their youth, the rest die an average of 20 years early!  Promised RFAs for ME research are delayed by two years, and the amount of money involved remains a mystery.  The increase in extramural funding (which typically consists of 90% of NIH funding) is a meaningless increase of $7 million for 2017.  

We cannot sit by and allow to this slow paced distribution of crumbs to continue. Some in the ME community are so angered by the repeated betrayal by NIH that they are calling for a complete withdrawal – aggressive refusal.  

I agree with this aggressive refusal. We have witnessed the danger of federally funded research by investigators who favor the psychogenic view of the disease with the cataclysmic PACE trial and numerous other such studies by CDC. When all “a seat at the table” means is to enable the government to claim they gave us an opportunity for input yet they never act on our advice and requests – it is time to step away from this falsely implied collaboration and get our congressional representatives involved in advocating on our behalf.  

A congressional investigation as promoted by Dr. Davis of the Open Medicine Foundation might be the only way for us to finally gain respect, equality and fair treatment by the US government health agencies. ME advocates should rise and stand up for the rights of ME patients. Looking away and accepting abuse only reinforces more of the same. We cannot allow this institutional bias to continue with disregard, negligence, and inequality, causing substantial harm to ME patients.

My Comment to MEAction’s #MillionsMissing Protest Demands

The organization, MEadvocacy , their supporters and independent advocates who advocate for the disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and for the criteria CCC and ICC represent a significant percentage of the ME community.  According to Jason’s latest study (as shown below), the majority of the community prefers the name Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) over CFS, ME/CFS  or SEID and selects the CCC and ICC criteria over the IOM criteria.

Therefore, MEadvocacy and independent advocates such as myself, have repeatedly communicated the name and criteria preferences to MEAction to include them in the protest demands but have been cut out of the process time and time again.  Additionally, MEadvocacy and their supporters were excluded when MEAction met with high-level staffers at HHS recently – again shutting out a significant voice in the ME community.

For over 30 years, HHS has used these silencing tactics on ME advocates and now our own “community platform” (MEAction) is using the same tactics against MEadvocacy and independent advocates to silence our voices.

I left a comment on their website Friday afternoon, but unfortunately, it has not come out of moderation yet.  *edit – my comment was just posted 11:24pm along with a reply from MEAction (although the timestamp for my comment shows 9/23/2016 at 4:12pm – which is the time that I posted my comment to their website)

You can read my comment below:

On August 12th, 2016, I sent the following letter to MEAction regarding their MillionsMissing demands:

MEadvocacy sent you a letter before the May 25 protest letting you know that they and their supporters would not endorse demands from the ME community that do not include as a priority the name myalgic encephalomyelitis in conjunction with the ME criteria (CCC and or ICC) – not the CDC or IOM criteria.

Even though I am an independent advocate now, I advocate for the same demands as MEadvocacy.org and their supporters.

I do not support demands to HHS that do not start off with demanding recognition of the real neuroimmune disease ME.  Without this recognition, we are causing harm to the ME patient community.

In addition, to use the name ME without advocating for criteria created by our ME experts is deceitful.  The IOM panel themselves distinguished IOM/SEID from ME and recommended separate coding.

Sincerely,

Gabby Klein

ME advocate – relatingtome.net.

MEAction did not address MEadvocacy’s concerns about the demands in May, nor have they addressed my concerns in my letter to them dated August 12th, 2016.

Their current demands have not changed the wording in section #3 about Education.  They still demand the CDC amend their website and educational information to comply with 2014 IACFSME Primer and with the IOM report supplemented by CFSAC recommendations.

MEadvocacy has shown in their blog – Analysis of CFSAC August 2015 Recommendations for the IOM Criteria that the IOM criteria – even if the CFSAC recommendations are incorporated will result in inferior criteria to the CCC and the ICC.

The majority of ME patients prefer the CCC and ICC criteria over the IOM as outlined by Dr. Leonard Jason’s recently published paper: Patient Perceptions Regarding Possible Changes to the Name and Criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  Over a thousand global patients filled out questionnaires about the name and criteria for the disease. The results revealed that 32-35% of respondents approved of the IOM criteria, compared to 58-64% approval of the CCC, and 55 to 58% approval of the ICC.

In addition, myalgic encephalomyelitis was the preferred name chosen by a majority of patients 65-68%.  This demand is not even mentioned in MEAction’s demands to HHS!  

I therefore, cannot endorse MEAction’s demands and would ask MEAction to make it publicly very clear that these demands do not reflect the demands of the majority of ME patients.  

HHS Refuses to Correct their Wrongful Branding​

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I wish to thank advocate Eileen Holderman for her contributions to this blog post.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refuses to use the name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in spite of the fact that it is being used worldwide by ME experts, advocates and patients. Instead, HHS insists on using their demeaning moniker  – chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Their refusal to use the proper name for this disease ignited a long course of government malfeasance, corruption and marginalization of one million American men, women and children suffering from ME.

Naming and Classifying the Disease 

In the mid-1950’s, an epidemic broke out at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Following that epidemic, the name myalgic encephalomyelitis was first used by ME pioneer Dr. Melvin A. Ramsay (as suggested by Dr. Donald Acheson).

Since 1969, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified myalgic encephalomyelitis under Neurology – ICD-10, G93.3.

However, in the 1980’s, following the Lake Tahoe, Nevada outbreak of ME, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chose a different name for the disease. In their quest to minimize the seriousness and potential huge impact of the disease, CDC coined it with the trivializing name – chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

In 2015, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) was contracted by HHS to devise another government constructed name and criteria. IOM created a new demeaning name for the disease – systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), which has been rejected by the majority of experts, advocates, and patients. The name is misleading because it implies that patients are only ill when they exert themselves and are otherwise fine if they don’t – which of course is not true.

The Fiction of CFS

The name – chronic fatigue syndrome – along with the government criteria, are an HHS fictional construct.  In their attempt to disappear the serious neuroimmune disease ME, HHS deliberately chose the name chronic fatigue syndrome because it could be easily conflated with the common condition of chronic fatigue.  Their intention was to create a false impression that those with CFS were primarily contending with one symptom – fatigue – rather than a vast number of symptoms affecting multiple body systems.

The scientific and medical communities are responsible for naming and developing criteria for diseases – not governments. ME expert researchers and clinicians named the disease myalgic encephalomyelitis and developed accurate criteria for the disease (CCC, ICC). HHS should not hijack the private scientific and medical sector’s authority.

The Reality of ME 

Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a neuroimmune disease (with an infectious component and/or etiology) appearing in epidemic and sporadic forms. ME affects multiple systems of the body: neurological, immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and energy systems. The illness typically has an acute onset of a viral or bacterial infection or toxin or chemical exposure.

The symptoms of ME are numerous and include but are not limited to the following: post-exertional collapse, muscle and joint pain, enlarged lymph nodes, chills, low-grade fever, headaches, extreme fatigue and weakness, cognitive impairment (delayed processing, aphasia, short term memory loss, etc.), orthostatic intolerance, dizziness, sleep dysfunction, allergies, mold and chemical intolerance, frequent reactivated infections and co-infections. The symptoms of ME leave patients severely sick and disabled for decades and many die prematurely from complications of the disease. Currently, there is no cure for the illness.

About one million American men, women, and children suffer from ME and about 17 million worldwide. Most patients are disabled and cannot work and about 25% are bedbound and cannot care for themselves.  Studies show that the quality of life for patients with ME  is one of the poorest compared to other chronic diseases.

“In my experience, it [ME] is one of the most disabling diseases that I care for, far exceeding HIV disease except for the terminal stages.”—Dr. Daniel Peterson

The Repercussions of a Harmful Name

The CDC manufactured name – chronic fatigue syndrome – and the CDC criteria  (see next blog post), have harmed patients worldwide and have resulted in the following:

  • Inadequate federal funding – For over 30 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has refused to adequately fund meaningful biomedical studies for the disease. ME receives less federal funding than hay fever, and a mere 2% of other similarly burdened diseases, yet has an enormous cost to our nation’s economy. From the start, NIH and CDC plotted to eliminate the disease by focusing on ‘fatigue’ in the name as evidenced by the letter the late Dr. Straus of NIH wrote to Dr. Fukuda of CDC in which he stated: “ I predict that fatigue itself will remain the subject of considerable interest but the notion of a discrete form of fatiguing illness will evaporate….I consider this a desirable outcome.” (see letter part 1 and part 2  provided by advocate Craig Maupen)
  • Stagnant scientific advancement – The lack of NIH funding has stalled impactful scientific advancements.  Although over 5,000 scientific papers have been published on the disease, many were privately funded and most findings of biomedical abnormalities were dismissed or not replicated by HHS.  The health agencies’ use of the name chronic fatigue syndrome (and flawed criteria) ensures paltry funding and controversy, which are reasons some researchers will not study the disease.
  • Insufficient and erroneous medical education  –  HHS has spread misinformation about the disease on their websites and in their medical CMEs and materials. Despite advice from ME experts, advocates and members of the federally appointed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) to correct the inaccurate medical information, HHS refuses to do so.  They continue to use chronic fatigue syndrome and often publish materials that describe the common condition of chronic fatigue instead of the neuroimmune disease ME.
  • Lack of expert clinicians – Lack of medical education has resulted in a scarcity of clinicians. The majority of patients do not have access to an ME specialist and are left to deal with local doctors, many who are not knowledgeable about the disease – leaving patients without proper medical care. The stigma attached to the disease due to the name and the intentional confusing medical information from HHS, are reasons such few doctors go into this field.
  • Recommendations of harmful treatments – HHS’s erroneous medical information has led unknowing clinicians to recommend harmful treatments to their ME patients, such as prescribing unneeded antidepressants, graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Many patients have been seriously harmed by these recommendations, some permanently. The use of the flawed name – chronic fatigue syndrome – and flawed criteria deliberately conflates patients with ME with some who do not have ME. Therefore, treatments which are harmful to ME patients which may help those without ME, get wrongly attributed as successful treatments for ME patients, due to the conflating of the patient pool.
  • No FDA-approved treatments – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied approval of Ampligen (an immune modulator shown to be effective in the drug trial). FDA has no approved drugs for ME patients and their inactions are influenced by HHS’s description of the “condition” as primarily “fatigue.”
  • Psychiatric bias – The CDC’s pseudoscientific name (CFS) and criteria enable a psychiatric bias to proliferate about the disease.  Some in the psychiatry and psychology fields (Wessely, Chalder, Sharpe, White, etc.) and in other fields (Gill, Walitt, Saligan and the late Straus and Reeves, etc.) intentionally misclassify the disease as a psychosomatic condition – in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence that classifies the disease as biological.  It is lucrative for psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as opportunists from other fields, to hijack a disease with a trivial and unscientific name – especially when government health agencies give preference and award grants to studies with a psychiatric slant and because health insurance companies reward those willing to put a psychological spin on a disease that isn’t psychological.
  • Difficulty getting approved for disability insurance – The inaccurate name and medical information are co-factors why many ME patients have a grueling time, no matter how severely ill, getting approved for disability benefits. In fact, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) frequently denies patients benefits during the initial application process, citing that “fatigue” doesn’t qualify them for disability. Additionally, the psychiatric bias connected to the name and criteria of CFS causes many patients to lose their ERISA based disability insurance after the two-year period because ERISA only covers psychiatric illnesses for two years – despite the fact that the illness is classified as biological.
  • Rejection of health insurance reimbursements – The trivial name gives health insurance companies ammunition to deny payments for important tests such as two-day CPET, NK cell function, and cytokine panel blood tests, among many others, as well as for efficacious treatments such as antivirals and immune modulators.
  • Stigmatization of patients – The media frequently propagates government propaganda and a psychiatric bias about the disease. Many (except for a minority of informed journalists) don’t report on the abundance of published scientific biomedical findings, but instead use faulty government information; some because they wrongly defer to the government health agencies as the ultimate authority rather than investigate; and some because they pander to the government health agencies to glean favor and receive preferential treatment for future articles. Editors routinely use chronic fatigue syndrome instead of myalgic encephalomyelitis – and worse – often drop the word ‘syndrome’ from the headline of the article – downgrading the disease of ME to a condition of chronic fatigue. The unscientific name gives the media dispensation to write unscientific articles.
  • Marginalization of patients – Despite plenty of scientific evidence about ME, many family members and friends of patients often fall prey to the deception started by the government and promoted by the media. Patients are often subjected to comments such as: “I’m tired too, but I am able to push through it – why can’t you?”; “Go jogging – it will make you feel better!”  Because the name chronic fatigue syndrome obsessively focuses on one of a vast number of symptoms a patient suffers from – patients are wrongly labeled lazy, sleepy or merely tired.

HHS Must Rectify their Indefensible Nomenclature

For three decades, HHS has harmed ME patients by using their degrading name – chronic fatigue syndrome – for the disease – causing the following damaging results: paltry federal funding, choking consequential medical advances, erroneous medical education, a scarcity of expert researchers and clinicians, recommendations of harmful treatments, no FDA-approved drugs, proliferation of psychiatric bias, obstacles getting approval for disability insurance and health insurance reimbursements, and stigmatization of patients by the media, the public, family and friends.

And for three decades, ME advocates, patients, caregivers and experts have called for HHS to stop their harmful practices and use the name myalgic encephalomyelitis exclusively and resolutely!*

*Look for the upcoming blog post about ME criteria that will address how to eradicate the name chronic fatigue syndrome and retire the CDC and IOM criteria.