Few newspapers are as ardently wedded to the interests of the pharmaceutical giants as is the San Francisco Chronicle, which renders some sharp criticism of the drug industry doubly surprising. Along with the mass media that is so dependent upon drug product advertising revenue, the American medical establishment has for far too long been in the pocket of Big Drugs. One doctor has jumped out of the pocket and he has a shocking story to tell. He deserves credit for his narration and the SF Chronicle deserves kudos for printing it.
These are the bald facts. For years Joseph Biederman of Harvard University has been the go-to doctor for hooking up kids to psychotropic drugs touted as panaceas for the ever-increasing mental conditions requiring medication. Many are the acronyms attached to various flavors of the childhood disorders but most lay people know them as Attention Deficit Disorder. Dr. Biederman recommended in 1996 that drugs like Ritalin be prescribed for 10 percent of American youngsters. Due to his influence by 2004 one in nine boys were taking the drug. No one has been more responsible than Dr. Biederman for promoting the child bipolar epidemic that has seen children as young as 2-year-olds on three or four psychiatric drugs. This bipolar epidemic, by the way, appears no where on earth except in the United States.
His advocacy on behalf of quaking and shaking children needing prescription drugs appears to carry rewards beyond the halo he created for putting kids on the path of medicated recovery. A United States senator has revealed that Dr. Biederman did not declare $1.6 million in drug company consulting fees.
The only surprising aspect of the revelation above is that, after doing such a great marketing job for the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Biederman’s "fee" was so paltry. Considering the drug companies have reaped billions in profits from sales to parents convinced their children need medication to cope with syndromes that didn’t exist a couple of generations ago, Dr. Biederman surely deserves far more than $1.6 million.
The author of this exposé has a simple message regarding the shenanigans of Dr. Biederman and the saturation of prescriptions drugs wrought by the drug industry’s marketing plan: Drug company money is corrupting medical practice and the maintenance of our country’s health.
Amen to that and also for writing that the "Fortune 500 drug companies, by their sheer economic clout, have become the single most dominant influence in our health care system." FORCES has been preaching this message for many years and we are happy that a member of the medical community validates our position.
The author propose several policies to prevent a drug company spokesman like Dr. Biederman from passing himself off as a neutral expert whose only concern is helping disturbed children. Noting that much of the drug company spin originates in universities, such as Dr. Biederman’s Harvard, the author proposes a federally enforced level of transparency that would expose drug company shills such as Dr. Biederman as hopelessly compromised and not the neutral, disinterested researchers they pass themselves off as. The author sadly notes, however, that many university psychiatry departments wouldn’t exist were it not for drug company money.
The power of the pharmaceutical industry is such that it will take more than one voice decrying the obvious corruption inherent in the partnership of the drug industry and a promoter of univeral medication. We’re happy, however, that this voice was raised and encouraged that others will follow suit.