XMRV, CFS and Money
This is meant to be an open document that anyone can edit or
add to. The aim is to provide a
snapshot of potential biasing interests of a financial nature when it comes to
considering opinions about XMRV and CFS.
Conflicts arising from psychic and professional conflicts might well be
even more significant than financial factors, but that is a whole different
kettle of fish.
I have often thought that the considerable expense of an
illness that can remove people from the workforce and sometimes result in them
becoming a financial liability to society would be incentive enough for
governments to support serious research.
The fact that the CFS patient population is likely to continue to grow
because of the chronic nature of the illness promises to make the disease a
major cost to the economy. If XMRV
turns out to be the culprit, the cost could be astronomical. So in financial terms, there are opposing
pressures and one might think, a need to invest serious money in getting to the
truth of XMRV and CFS.
A distinction between the two lists below is that an
XMRV/CFS connection would lead to potential financial advantages
for some and potential losses for others. Whilst no connection maintains
far greater existing financial advantages.
In Britain the cost of CFS to the economy has been estimated
as £3.5 billion p.a., though I'm not sure if this allowed for the fact that
many PWCFS continue to contribute to some degree and in other ways to the
economy. It is well known that PWCFS
frequently encounter obstacles to claiming welfare benefits and support that
they are entitled to and this probably constitutes savings of many millions to
the economy. Nevertheless, the net cost
is still likely to be in excess of £2 billion, and one might think that such a
figure would find government agencies anxious to investigate the possibility of
a retroviral cause for the illness.
If memory serves, the £3.5 billion figure is based on
250,000 patients. Treatment of a HIV
positive person in the UK is estimated at £16,000 p.a. and as treatment only
prevents the development of AIDS illnesses (does not cure the HIV infection),
treatment is ongoing for the patient's lifetime. So if the UK had 250,000 XMRV patients that could amount to £4
billion p.a. for retroviral treatment alone – and patients might still remain
ill, so the cost of treatment might be additional to existing costs. If one adds to this the possibility that
XMRV positive people might qualify for social welfare support in parity with
other disabling diseases such as MS or heart disease; the extra costs might be
From a purely financial perspective, it might be that the
only advantage of XMRV being connected to CFS would be if treatment could
restore and/or improve patient's productivity.
Without this, it might be more cost-effective to keep CFS patients in a
biopsychosocial nowhere land; because the patient's suffering doesn't cost a
penny. In this respect PWCFS are not
only the 'undeserving sick' in medical terms, but financial as well.
Financial Interests that could be opposed to a connection
between XMRV and CFS
companies that assert a claimant with CFS has a psychological illness can
refuse to pay for non-psychological medical treatments.
companies may claim CFS is psychological and those companies that have
time-limited indemnity for psychological illnesses can stop disability
science and psychology professionals that benefit from employment or
association with insurance companies might continue to enjoy such custom
and patronage while doubts exist about the cause of CFS.
and science professionals that have built or enhanced their career or
reputation based on theories of CFS being a psychological illness can
avoid the damage a biological explanation might cause to their career and
and science professionals that propose psychological explanations for CFS
and as a result, benefit from association with government agencies
responsible for health provision, welfare benefits and population health
can continue to enjoy the advantages of their association.
with CFS would not require investigation or treatment for XMRV – saving
numerous agencies unknown, but probably very large amounts of money.
general population would not require testing to identify infected but
healthy individuals. Additionally
there would be no requirement for measures to prevent the development of
disease in infected but healthy individuals, or introducing measures to
investigate or control spread of the infection.
Financial Interests that could favour a connection between
XMRV and CFS
and XMRV scientists and doctors might be able to access funding from what
could become a huge public health budget to address what might be a
significant threat to human health.
and development of anti-XMRV drugs could provide profitable opportunities
to researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
and scientists with biomedical research and treatment experience of CFS
could find their knowledge and experience in high demand.
companies and welfare and benefits agencies might find that customers who
were previously thought to be long-term or permanently disabled, are
actually treatable and able to rejoin the workforce.
with XMRV could find it easier to claim insurance and welfare benefits,
access healthcare and other social support; compared to alternative
diagnoses such as ME or CFS. (this is a 'pro' from the patient
with XMRV denied welfare or healthcare based on opinions of professionals
claiming their illness is psychological might be successful in suing