Designing epidemiologic study for multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases in Gulf War Vets

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requested that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conduct a study to respond to Public Law 110-389 to determine the incidence, prevalence, and risk of developing multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases -- including migraines, Parkinson's disease, brain cancers, and central nervous system abnormalities difficult to diagnose precisely -- as a result of service in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf and post 9/11 Global Operations theaters.

In a new Academies report, Considerations for Designing an Epidemiologic Study for Multiple Sclerosis and Other Neurologic Disorders in Pre and Post 9/11 Gulf War Veterans, the committee convened to carry out the study concluded that while technically feasible, it would not continue with the next steps of designing and implementing a study of the neurologic diseases of concern. The primary reason for the committee's conclusion was the restriction to using only existing VA data for its work. Furthermore, VA and numerous other researchers have already published results on the outcomes of concern using VA data linked to other data sources, and therefore, it is unlikely that the committee would find different results from those well-designed studies that already have been published and scrutinized. Given that the committee would be limited to using existing VA data only, an Academies study would essentially repeat the work of others, yet have the additional limitation of not having access to other important data sources. Thus, the committee did not believe it could advance the knowledge significantly beyond what is already known.


National Academy of Sciences


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