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Feckless IOM Does Agency's Bidding: Sound Familiar?

BlameBy Dan Olmsted

A harsh new report is blasting the relationship between a federal agency and the Institute of Medicine -- saying costly reports the IOM produced were worthless and failed to connect a widespread but baffling epidemic with its true causes.

No, it's not about autism. This criticism relates to the Veterans Administration and studies it commissioned from the Institute of Medicine to look into Gulf War Illness. The Congressionally mandated independent review of Gulf War Studies, in a report to be officially released Tuesday, calls the VA-IOM effort a diversion from the search for the truth.

It says that Saddam Hussein didn't cause Gulf War Syndrome -- we did. The most likely suspects, it concludes, are a nerve gas antidote used protectively (there was never an attack) and widespread exposure to pesticides. And it says multiple vaccinations given to the troops cannot be ruled out.

Too many vaccines … a potent and inadequately tested medicine used to ward off an attack that never came, one that may have mimicked the effects of actual exposure … environmental toxins causing new and catastrophic mental and physical damage … a conflicted government agency using the IOM for its own purposes.

In other words, it sounds a lot like the autism-vaccines report the IOM produced in 2004 for its client, the CDC -- which found no relationship between the two -- and the belief by many in the autism community that the science was skewed to produce a predetermined result. It also goes to the issue of whether scientific research has become so politicized and corporatized, especially in the past eight years, that a top to bottom review is needed -- something President-Elect Obama has said he will order.

Here is the heart of the matter, according to the new report:

"In 1998, with few conclusive answers to continuing questions about Gulf War illness and the federal response to this problem, Congress directed VA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review available research in order to assist the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in making decisions about Gulf War-related disability compensation. Public Laws … directed that the review identify conditions that affect Gulf War veterans at excess rates and assess the scientific evidence concerning associations between those conditions and a detailed list of Gulf War exposures.

In response, VA commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM), within the National Academies, to conduct a series of reviews using a methodology previously established to evaluate diseases affecting Vietnam veterans in relation to Agent Orange. (Hyams/Brown). To date, the resulting Gulf War and Health series has included nine reports, including two updated reports, and provided hundreds of conclusions. The Committee was concerned to find that the IOM reviews were not conducted in accordance with the laws that mandated them. As a result, the Gulf War and Health reports have provided little information that is directly relevant to health conditions that affect Gulf War veterans at excess rates, or their association with Gulf War exposures.

The 1998 legislation specifically directed that VA commission reviews that identify both diagnosed and undiagnosed illnesses that affect Gulf War veterans at excess rates and, based on a comprehensive consideration of available research, determine whether there is evidence that those illnesses are associated with Gulf War exposures or Gulf War service. However, the health conditions considered in the IOM Gulf War and Health reports have primarily included multiple types of cancer and a number of other diagnosed diseases—conditions for which there are no indications that Gulf War veterans have been affected at excess rates. In contrast, the IOM reports have provided almost no information on conditions that do occur at excess rates in Gulf War veterans. That is, the Gulf War and Health reports have not provided findings on possible associations between Gulf War illness or ALS and most Gulf War exposures. Nor do they provide findings on conditions like migraines and seizures, which preliminary information suggests may affect Gulf War veterans at excess rates, in relation to Gulf War exposures.
 
The legislation also directed that determinations be based on scientific evidence provided by both human and animal studies. Most studies that evaluate biological effects of hazardous exposures are done in animals, for ethical reasons. In recent years, a large number of animal studies have identified biological effects of Gulf War exposures and combinations of exposures that were previously unknown. Although animal research was sometimes described in the IOM reports, findings from animal studies were not considered in drawing conclusions about the evidence that Gulf War exposures were associated with health outcomes. Unlike IOM's earlier Agent Orange reports, the standards used to determine levels of evidence for the Gulf War and Health reports expressly limited IOM panelists to consideration of results from human studies. The omission of animal studies was especially striking in IOM's updated report on sarin (nerve gas for which the antidote was given to U.S. troops), which had been requested by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2003 specifically because of new research in animals that demonstrated adverse effects of low-level sarin exposure.
 
… The hundreds of findings provided in the IOM reports are largely inconclusive, indicating that there is insufficient evidence to determine if the diseases considered are associated with the exposures considered, based on the types of studies considered.
 
The specific information included in the Gulf War and Health reports is also problematic, in that it appears to reflect a process of reporting selected results from subgroups of studies, rather than integrating and analyzing results from all available research. This is a pervasive problem. …
 
In short, IOM's Gulf War and Health series of reports have been skewed and limited by a restrictive approach to the scientific tasks mandated by Congress, an approach directed by VA in commissioning the reports. These limitations are most notably reflected in the selective types of information reviewed and the lack of in-depth analysis of the research literature and scientific questions associated with the health of Gulf War veterans. There is a fundamental disconnect between the Congressional directive to VA and VA's charge to IOM for reviewing evidence on Gulf War exposures and their association with illnesses affecting Gulf War veterans. The reports have particularly fallen short in advancing understanding of associations between Gulf War exposures and Gulf War illness, the most prominent health issue affecting Gulf War veterans."

This set-up, of course, will be familiar to Age of Autism readers knowledgeable about the CDC-mandated-and-manipulated IOM study of autism and vaccines, which pulled every kind of punch -- from hurrying up the report to avoid looking at new studies, to ignoring or denigrating studies like the hair-mercury analysis and the violent reaction to thimerosal in mice bred to have autoimmune problems, to overweighting slipshod epidemiological studies that even the IOM acknowledged could fail to identify a susceptible subset of children.
Bottom line: The VA-IOM debacle is an analogous case study to the IOM-CDC cover-up, with similar consequences -- lack of understanding of what really caused Gulf War Syndrome; lack of understanding of what really caused the autism epidemic. At a deeper level, the study suggests a culture in which "science" is just another political tool to silence criticism and prevent the truth from emerging. In Patrick Fitzgerald's memorable phrase in the Scooter Libby trial, the IOM appears to have become a mechanism for "kicking sand in the umpire's face."

This connection was not lost on Steve Robinson, one of America's leading veterans advocates, who was instrumental in exposing the Bush Administration's shabby treatment of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

"It's the three-card monte game they use to have a pre-determined outcome," Robinson told me. And it's no mere game -- at stake are treatment and compensation for, in this case, hundreds of thousands of Gulf War vets whose lives have been damaged by their decision to serve their country.

"How do we break the code of how corrupt it is to manipulate science this way, not just for vets but for autism and other issues?" asked Robinson, who has been informally working with the Obama transition team on veterans' issues. He said Obama "is not going to get the ground truth from these people" in any of the areas where the science has been corrupted.

"What does he inherit? A politicized federal government [science program] that is defunct and corrupt." The problem is most acute four or five levels down from the top, where the actual manipulation occurs, he said. Those are the people who need to come clean.

The Gulf War review panel basically called for a mulligan on the shoddy VA/IOM collaboration -- recommending that the VA ask the IOM to redo all its studies and that the VA office involved in the previous studies, the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, be removed from all participation in the new effort.

Here's an idea, one that's been circulating in the autism community for some time: Redo the IOM studies on autism and vaccines and remove the CDC, the U.S. Public Health Service and  their pharma-flacking cronies from all oversight and responsibility.

Maybe the debacle at the VA will encourage the Obama Administration to take another look at the autism-vaccine "science" produced by the CDC and stamped "approved" by the IOM. A number of autism advocates worked hard for years to get the Bush administration to reconsider the Immunization Safety Review findings on autism. They made modest progress: the IOM sponsored a "Workshop on Autism and the Environment" last year.
 
Age of Autism Editor-at-Large Mark Blaxill was a member of the Planning Committee for that workshop. "The workshop was a small step in a better direction," says Blaxill, "but even getting that far was a huge struggle. And in no way whatsoever did it undo the damage done by the 2004 report. We need to see some intellectual courage from our scientific leadership. So far, all we've seen is systemic cowardice and a complete perversion of the scientific process. In the meantime, families are suffering and no one is doing anything about it."

A final note -- while the IOM may claim it was just doing its job as mandated by the VA, that's not good enough, not for an institution that is part of the National Academies, which calls itself "Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering and Health."  IOM could just as easily have read the Congressional mandate and told the VA that its request was not in accordance with the law -- in common parlance, illegal. In fact, why didn't they stand up for good science? Was the contract too enticing? Yet the IOM says it advises "the nation."

The nation is not the VA -- the nation is veterans. The nation is not the CDC -- it's families and individuals coping with an autism epidemic. And the nation is certainly not the federal government -- the nation is the people who elected that government to protect and defend them; it's you and me.
 
And we, the people, keep getting royally screwed.
--
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Comments

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Theresa

It's this kind of news that gives me hope that enough pressure on Congress can get Carolyn Maloney's bill passed. Otherwise, you're up against the government-industrial complex, which has infinite money to spend in order to cover up its wrongdoing and continue to profit from it. I just read a very depressing article about how the Department of Labor is misusing industry contractors to determine which Department of Energy employees who worked with radioactive materials deserve to be compensated for their cancer. (Best American Magazine Writing, 2008, "Out in the Cold," by Mike Kessler of 5280 magazine) The story of one federal government agency paying a supposedly impartial outside company to cover up its mess is an old one--as long as the government and the big industry players have more money than victims of their malfeasance, the story will continue to be the same. I'm glad to see that Gulf War Syndrome victims were able to gain a small victory. Maybe Congress will show some guts once again and authorize Rep. Maloney's study.

Rita Hawkins

As a decorated Gulf War veteran and one who has been ill since 1991, this report isn't news. We've known our ills were real. I'm one of the lucky ones who fought the VA system and won my service-connected disability. I would gladly return my monthly checks, if I could live my life as it should have been, were it not for my Gulf War related illnesses.

Years of DoD denying everything filled the brains of military and civilian doctors. It wasn't until 1997 that some began to see the light. I have come to the conclusion that my ills would be worth it, if only DoD learned their lessons through them. Sadly, we now see the pattern repeating itself. It's always about the money expended for veterans who no longer serve. That's the cost of war, folks! DoD didn't learn from Agent Orange, nor have they learned from the first Gulf War. Maybe they'll learn from the current group of veterans who return ill. It's money before care and concern.

It's ironic that Iraqi women have given birth to higher than normal deformed children; yet DoD calls all comments by our women...anecdotal. Who would have thought medical personnel would put doctrine before patient's well being?

Danichi

Very interesting news about this topic of prolonged health problems from repeated exposure to toxins before and during combat in the Persian Gulf region. What this story lacks are the first hand accounts and testimonials from medical personnel from Desert Storm.

I would like to know what kinds of medical complaints were initially diagnosed by military medics attached to the field units traversing near the burning oil wells in extreme heat with anti-nerve agents in their blood stream.

What happened to all the medical records of combat soldiers to identify an accurate patient history?

Why has this Gulf War Illness story taken so long to be published in mainstream media outlets?

I have so many questions because part of my life after war was demolished from a centralized lack of public awareness and concern regarding a medical emergency that if properly addressed in time could have saved many lives.


Pamela

Interesting Omition from Reuters

**This from NewsWeek regarding "other possible causes"

..."There are other factors that, while not likely causes of Gulf War illness, can't be ruled out, Steele said. These include exposure to nerve agents, exposure to smoke from oil well fires, and vaccines given to the troops. The panel ruled out depleted uranium and anthrax vaccine as causes."

**This from the Rome News-Tribune, ROme, GA

..."The federal panel added that it also could not rule out an association between Gulf War illness and the prolonged exposure to oil fires, as well as low-level exposures to nerve agents, injections of many vaccines and combinations of neurotoxic exposures."


This from Reuters:
...."The panel said other possible causes could not be ruled out, including extensive exposure to smoke from oil-well fires and low-level exposure to sarin gas when captured Iraqi stocks were destroyed."

Notice anything interesting?

Garbo

Well, put the release of this report into the context of these other two articles and it gives a fair picture of what we are up against.

First, as Ginger Taylor noted, HHS secretary last month declared an "antrax emergency" that will protect anyone connected with the vaccine from liability until at least 2015.
http://adventuresinautism.blogspot.com/2008/10/hhs-declares-emergency-limits-anthrax.html

And Raw Story last summer had documents showing the Bush administration knew about anthrax vaccine problems long ago.

http://www.rawstory.com/news/2008/Memo_shows_White_House_knew_of_0807.html

They are circling the wagons and doing their best "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" song and dance.

Mr. President Obama? Throw the bums out and start fresh, please.

Pamela

Front and Center Folks!

It's critical we keep this sort of thing in front of the legislators.

These Reports give our community a great deal of legitimacy. These repremanding reports make it more and more difficult for anyone to call us, "on the fringe, angry and looking for someone to blame." They build the case we have been making for the culture of corruption we have been complainng about.

Don't assume everyone in Congress and Senate know what's coming out of any given committee and certainly don't assume they will make the correlation Dan has so beautifully defined here.

Here is the email I sent this morning:
(Note: I included an excerpt in the middle with a closing paragraph at the end.)

Good Morning ______,

This article is a must read. Aside from attending the recent autism briefing, this is probably the most important thing I have asked of you.

Most of what I have sent you is for the sake of your office's general education. I would like to be assured that Senator _____ reads this personally, as he implied to me he believes the federal agencies are above the criticisms we, the autism community, have placed on them.

It discusses a report to COngress that will be released tomorrow. http://www.ageofautism.com/2008/11/feckless-ion-do.html#more


These Excerpts provide a good overview but the details are critical:

A harsh new report is blasting the relationship between a federal agency and the Institute of Medicine -- saying costly reports the IOM produced were worthless and failed to connect a widespread but baffling epidemic with its true causes.

No, it's not about autism. This criticism relates to the Veterans Administration and studies it commissioned from the Institute of Medicine to look into Gulf War Illness. The Congressionally mandated independent review of Gulf War Studies, in a report to be officially released Tuesday, calls the VA-IOM effort a diversion from the search for the truth.


It says that Saddam Hussein didn't cause Gulf War Syndrome -- we did. The most likely suspects, it concludes, are a nerve gas antidote used protectively (there was never an attack) and widespread exposure to pesticides. And it says multiple vaccinations given to the troops cannot be ruled out.


...........This set-up, of course, will be familiar to Age of Autism readers knowledgeable about the CDC-mandated-and-manipulated IOM study of autism and vaccines, which pulled every kind of punch -- from hurrying up the report to avoid looking at new studies, to ignoring or denigrating studies like the hair-mercury analysis and the violent reaction to thimerosal in mice bred to have autoimmune problems, to overweighting slipshod epidemiological studies that even the IOM acknowledged could fail to identify a susceptible subset of children.

Bottom line: The VA-IOM debacle is an analogous case study to the IOM-CDC cover-up, with similar consequences -- lack of understanding of what really caused Gulf War Syndrome; lack of understanding of what really caused the autism epidemic. At a deeper level, the study suggests a culture in which "science" is just another political tool to silence criticism and prevent the truth from emerging. In Patrick Fitzgerald's memorable phrase in the Scooter Libby trial, the IOM appears to have become a mechanism for "kicking sand in the umpire's face."

This connection was not lost on Steve Robinson, one of America's leading veterans advocates, who was instrumental in exposing the Bush Administration's shabby treatment of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

"It's the three-card monte game they use to have a pre-determined outcome," Robinson told me. And it's no mere game -- at stake are treatment and compensation for, in this case, hundreds of thousands of Gulf War vets whose lives have been damaged by their decision to serve their country.

"How do we break the code of how corrupt it is to manipulate science this way, not just for vets but for autism and other issues?" asked Robinson, who has been informally working with the Obama transition team on veterans' issues. He said Obama "is not going to get the ground truth from these people" in any of the areas where the science has been corrupted.

"What does he inherit? A politicized federal government [science program] that is defunct and corrupt." The problem is most acute four or five levels down from the top, where the actual manipulation occurs, he said. Those are the people who need to come clean.

The Gulf War review panel basically called for a mulligan on the shoddy VA/IOM collaboration -- recommending that the VA ask the IOM to redo all its studies and that the VA office involved in the previous studies, the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, be removed from all participation in the new effort.


This angers me as much for our soldiers as for our children. It's high time that Congress and Senate clean house and get these questions answered through independent scientists. It's also high time parents who report that their children became chronically ill after receiving vaccines be taken seriously rather than being told we are just angry, on the fringe and looking for someone to blame. The same goes for our military personel.

Regards,
Pamela Felice

karenatlanta

Gee might it be the dozens of vaccines they give them in one day.
My neighbor is a Gulf War vet and he said day of vaccines everyone was release to the barracks to sleep off the ill effects.
Now years later the truth comes out.
Makes one wonder if this is why they are prolonging VICP verdicts, the most time passes the less the public cares.
Our poor vets, who sign up to protect our liberty should not be given the short hand.

Steve

My neighbor during the Gulf War was in the National Guard and served as a medic in Iraq. In 1993 or so, he was paid $12,000 to sign an agreement that he would never make a claim against the Government for Gulf War Syndrome. I wonder how much of this hush money was paid out.

Harry Hofherr

I have a close friend who served in the 1st Bush War and he came back with Gulf War Syndrome. He told me years ago that he and a lot of the doctors treating the vets knew there was a problem, and that all the vaccines they were being given caused a big part of that problem.

That said, the most telling aspect is the initial Military & VA denial of any such thing as Gulf War Syndrome. It's the same approach they took with Agent Orange. And it is very similar to the CDC approach to an epidemic of Autism. Deny there is a problem and maybe it'll go away.

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