Guest Blog Post by Jerrold Spinhirne, S.E. - The views expressed may or may not represent the views of MEadvocacy.org as a whole.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has paid the non-profit Institute of Medicine (IOM) $1,000,000 for the naming rights to the established neurological disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ICD G93.3 ME). This is not science, but the exercise of raw political and economic power. The ridiculous name the IOM committee came up with after "much thought" has no legitimacy whatsoever and should be scrapped before more precious time and resources are wasted.
The disease was named myalgic encephalomyelitis originally in a 1956 Lancet editorial later attributed to Dr. E. Donald Acheson. Drs. A. Melvin Ramsay and John Richardson also used the name ME at this time. The name ME was based on careful clinical examination of thousands of patients from over a dozen outbreaks of the epidemic form of the disease beginning with an outbreak in Los Angeles in 1934.
The 1956 Lancet editorial, "A New Clinical Entity," said this about the name of the disease:
From the purely practical standpoint it would be useful to have a name for this syndrome. As the most helpful single feature in the recognition of this syndrome in the past has been the predominately normal cerebrospinal fluid, the names which have already been suggested, "Iceland disease" and "Akureyri disease," are not really appropriate.
The objections to any but a purely descriptive name for a disorder without a known cause or established pathology are obvious. For this reason, the term "benign myalgic encephalomyelitis" may be acceptable. It in no way prejudices the argument for or against a single or related group of causal agents; and it does describe some of the striking features of a syndromecharacterized by (1) symptoms and signs of damage to the brain and spinal chord, in a greater or lesser degree; (2) protracted muscle pain with paresis [partial paralysis, muscle weakness] and cramp; (3) emotional disturbances in convalescence; (4) normal C.S.F.; (5) involvement, in some variants, of the reticuloendothelial system [part of the immune response system]; (6) a protracted course with relapses in severe cases; and (7) a relatively benign outcome. [Death did not occur immediately after onset.]
It remains to identify this syndrome more precisely; but we believe its characteristics are now sufficiently clear to differentiate it from poliomyelitis, epidemic myalgia, glandular fever, the forms of epidemic encephalitis already described, and, need it be said, hysteria.
This is the history of ME that HHS is seeking to erase by hiring the IOM. Making ME disappear serves several purposes for HHS:
1. It covers up a series of errors, and misconduct, at the NIH and CDC in dealing with the disease beginning in 1985. HHS wants to preserve the perceived authority and credibility of these agencies, even if it means contributing to increased levels of disability and premature death in the population.
2. It protects the economic health of the private insurance industry, which HHS evidently values more highly than the public health.
3. It saves HHS the cost of appropriately funding research on a major neurological disease. Instead, HHS gets away with spending a pittance every year on a trivialized fatigue-based illness that has been greeted with skepticism by doctors and the public.
Seeing that the deception created around CFS was breaking down after 30 years, HHS wants to begin the cycle afresh by creating a new, updated version of CFS, using the IOM, with yet another inappropriate, trivializing name. This new pseudo-
diagnosis will then be used to bury ME even further. This must not be allowed to happen all over again.