Tag Archives: research corruption

Postpartum Depression Not an Illness


The primary purpose of the bio-psychiatric-pharma faction is to expand turf and sell more drugs.  This is a multi-faceted endeavor, one component of which is disease mongering.  This consists of using marketing techniques to persuade large numbers of people that they have an illness which needs to be treated with drugs.

With regards to postpartum depression, it is an obvious fact that some mothers do indeed experience a measure of depression in the period after giving birth.  The term postpartum depression has in the past been generally understood to mean that the problem had something to do with hormones.  Today brain chemicals are blamed.


In the old days (pre-1950) postpartum depression was rare.  But perhaps back then things weren’t so difficult.  Most women were in stable relationships and did not work outside the home.  Extended families were usually close by, and for the most part, babies were born at home.

Today it’s very different.  Many women react negatively to the loss of autonomy they experience in a hospital setting.  And when they come home, they are often overwhelmed by the extra work, the sense of isolation, and by the lack of sleep.  In this context, it’s very easy to start doubting oneself, and young women in particular can become very susceptible to the psychiatric-pharma pitch.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a good number of postpartum women who were depressed.  In my view their major needs were: someone supportive to talk to (not necessarily a mental health worker), some practical help with childcare and chores, and sympathetic, non-judgmental encouragement.


The disease mongering for postpartum depression is a truly well-organized psychiatry/pharma marketing machine.  Take a look at Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress.


For years psychiatry/pharma has been promoting the idea of universal screening for postpartum depression, i.e. that all postpartum women should be screened for depression.  They’ve made a great deal of progress in this area, and in the US we may be fairly close to universal screening already.

Screening, however, is a very insidious concept.  It sounds so benign.  “We just want to check to see if you’re sick.”  Who can argue with that?  But the reality is that the thresholds are set ridiculously low, and the “screen” is simply a “patient” recruiting tool.

The new mother is vulnerable and perhaps lacking in confidence, and is an easy sell.  Any resistance on her part is countered by the assurance that getting “treatment” is the best thing she can do “for the baby.”

The marketing pitch doesn’t stop with depression.  Postpartum Progress lists the other “illnesses” that the postpartum mother needs to be aware of (link here):

  • Antenatal Depression
  • Postpartum Anxiety
  • Postpartum OCD
  • Postpartum Panic Disorder
  • Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Postpartum Psychosis

Nor does it stop with the mother.  Check out Postpartum Men!  And why not?  An untapped market is like money going down the drain.  Perhaps next we should have postpartum screening for the baby’s siblings, so we can get big brother and big sister on drugs too.  It makes sense.  The arrival of a new baby inevitably precipitates some negative feelings.  Left untreated, who knows where this could lead?  And what about the baby him/herself?  Enough.


Fortunately there are some sane voices out there also.  Evelyn Pringle has written some great critiques of the postpartum marketing.  Dyan Neary (here) addresses the issue of pregnant women being prescribed psychotropic drugs.  Paula Caplan weighs in energetically here.  All good reading.


Last month (March 2013) an article by Katherine Wisner MD et al appeared in JAMA.  It was titled Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings.  You can see the abstract here.

In the study, 10,000 women who had recently given birth were screened for depression using a 10 item questionnaire.  Fourteen percent screened positive for depression, and of those, 98% were found on interview to have a DSM “diagnosis.”

The study is methodologically flawed.  James Coyne PhD has written an excellent critique titled Time to screen postpartum women for depression and suicidality to save lives?  (From the title you might get the impression that Dr. Coyne is advocating screening – but note the question mark.  It’s a critique.)

By the way, Dr. Wisner has ties to Eli Lilly.  Stephen Wisniewski PhD, one of the other authors of the JAMA article, consults for a number of pharmaceutical companies.

This is another example of spurious research being used as a marketing tool.

Postpartum depression is not an illness.  Nor is it a function of hormones or brain chemicals.  It stems from the fact that some new mothers feel isolated, vulnerable, unsure of themselves, and overwhelmed.  In some cases, they have had a difficult or unpleasant birthing experience.  These problems can only be addressed through human contact, reliable support, sympathetic encouragement, and practical help.


Pharma’s Subtle but Pernicious Marketing

Alice Keys, MD, has recently written a short article for Mad in America.  You can see it here.

Dr. Keys points out that to maintain a medical license, one must accumulate continuing education credits, and that these credits have to be approved by state licensing boards.

It’s widely known that pharmaceutical companies have largely hijacked this process in recent decades, and that their “educational” presentations might be better described as infomercials.

Dr. Keys alludes to this phenomenon, but also provides an important insight into one of the techniques that pharma uses to keep the medics hookedflattery.

Dr. Keys reports that there is a pharma-maintained website which she uses for continuing education, and that recently she read an article there which was not-for-credit, but was spotlighted.  The article discussed the enlightened, liberal-democratic tradition of psychiatry, and apparently was little more than a fluff piece, designed to get psychiatrists nodding and smiling, and to keep them in an accepting mood with regards to the rest of pharma’s message.

Dr. Keys saw through this.  Here are some quotes:

“I like to think that my smart self can filter out the repetitive pharmaceutical messages. I like to think that the often-used marketing premise, ‘repetition causes belief’, doesn’t apply to such a thoughtful reader as myself.”

“But I stumbled when I ran smack into the psychiatric flattery section of the article. Obvious ego-stroking sets off warning bells in my head, no matter where it comes from.”

“Flattery is one way to get an audience nodding and agreeing. A nodding and agreeing person is likely to continue to nod and agree. This is a well-known sales technique. It is also useful in consensus building.”

“And I cannot use the term ‘enlightenment’ when it comes to prescribing drugs with serious medical side-effects and efficacy in the range of an enhanced placebo effect.”

“My conclusion is that a website which baits readers with ‘free’ continuing medical education credits, which are paid for by the pharmaceutical companies, may not the best place to go for professional information.

I hesitate to say that this is a superb article, for fear of setting off “warning bells” in Dr. Keys’ head.  But it does provide a critically important insight into one of the ways that pharma has contaminated psychiatry, and that psychiatry has allowed itself to be contaminated.  Is it possible that pharma knows more about human nature than most psychiatrists?

My criticisms of psychiatry, of course, go much deeper than pharmaceutical contamination, but this contamination is a major stumbling block to any possibility of progress.

I strongly recommend this article.


Lab Tests for Psychiatric Disorders – More Promises

I’ve recently come across (courtesy of Tallaght Trialogue) an article in Current Psychiatry (Feb 2013) on this topic.  The author is Henry A. Nasrallah, M.D., and you can see it here.

Dr. Nasrallah, who is Editor-in-Chief of Current Psychiatry, states that there are 273 bio-markers for schizophrenia.  But wait.  Dr. Nasrallah goes on to say:

“None of the individual 273 biomarkers alone can serve as a diagnostic tool for the schizophrenias because there will be high rates of false positives and false negatives.”

One of the reasons for this, according to Dr. Nasrallah, is that schizophrenia is not a single condition.  There are “many schizophrenias.”

He continues:

“The complex heterogeneity of most psychiatric syndromes means that biomarkers will help unravel the rich neurobiology of those disorders and help elucidate the multiple neurobiologic underpinnings of these syndromes.”

Of course he’s correct, with regards to the heterogeneity, but he clearly conceptualizes this not as the variations intrinsic to human existence, but rather as a multiplicity of brain diseases!

Note what’s happened.  For decades the neurobiology of schizophrenia (and other “mental illnesses”) has been psychiatry’s holy grail.  Now, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that it doesn’t exist,  we have a new quest – the neurobiology of multiple schizophrenias.  All the earlier attempts failed because – get this – they were looking for the wrong thing!  But now that they’re getting it right, Dr. Nasrallah tells us that it’s happy times ahead.

“Psychiatrists should look forward with great optimism to a bright future for psychiatric diagnosis, combining a set of clinical signs and symptoms with a confirmatory cluster of lab tests. It may take time, but psychiatric clinicians will be using biomarkers in the future and the media and the public finally will perceive psychiatry as a “mature” medical discipline.”

Dr. Nasrallah describes a survey he did of psychiatric practitioners.  Reportedly “…60.5% of responders predicted that the DSM-6 (approximately a decade from now) will contain laboratory tests for psychiatric diagnosis.”

So just hang in there for another decade, and psychiatry will be a mature medical discipline.  Perhaps in the meantime there should be a sign outside every psychiatrist’s office that says:  “Psychiatry is NOT a mature medical discipline”

Incidentally, according to ProPublica (Dollars for Docs), Dr. Nasrallah received $897,079 from various pharmaceutical companies between 2009 and 2012.

Also incidentally, here are the names of other members of Current Psychiatry’s editorial staff who received money from pharmaceutical companies in the same period.  (Also per ProPublica.)

$169,324      Joseph Goldberg MD, Deputy Editor, 2009-12
$17,303        Robert A. Kowatch MD, PhD, Section Editor, 2010
$80,178        George Grossberg MD, Section Editor, 2010-12
$298,738      Sheldon Preskorn MD, PhD, Section Editor, 2009-12
$401,278      Robert Anthenelli MD, Section Editor, 2009-12
$46,423        Dale D’Mello,MD, Dept. Editor, 2010-11
$394,376      Leslie Lundt MD, Dept. Editor, 2009-12
$134,037      Robert McCarron DO, Section Editor, 2009-12

Of course it is entirely possible that all of this pharmaceutical money has no effect whatsoever on the content of the journal.  Current Psychiatry also has 16 editorial consultants, five of whom have taken pharmaceutical money in recent years.(Also per ProPublica.)

Lancet Gene Study

Yesterday (February 28) the Lancet published a study called “Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis.”  The study was conducted by the Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.

The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) was formed in 2007.  Its purpose is “…to undertake meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for psychiatric disorders…”  The authors state that they have no conflicts of interest.

On their home page, the PGC state:

“The PGC has received funding from many sources. Before participation in the PGC, establishing and genotyping of the primary case-control collections were funded by a wide range of national, international, and commercial funders. Funding for the PGC was for data analytical efforts. The PGC has relied heavily on the goodwill of its members and their donated effort. We are deeply grateful to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Netherlands Genetic Cluster Computer, and Hersenstichting Nederland for their sponsorship of the PGC.”

 It is noteworthy that some of the finances for the base studies came from “commercial” sources.  In addition, Hersenstichting Nederland, on its website acknowledges that it receives donations, but doesn’t identify any major donors.

So it’s possible that there’s been some contamination of the original research studies by pharmaceutical funders.  This point is important, because we know that pharma contamination of research is not uncommon in the psychiatric field.

In the present meta-analysis, the PGC focused on five “mental disorders:” autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia.  They accumulated genetic and “diagnostic” data on 33,332 subjects and 27,888 controls.  They then looked for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs – pronounced ‘snips’) that were present in the subjects but absent in the controls.  (An SNP is a DNA variation.)  These were genome-wide scans.  As of June 2012, 187,852,828 SNPs had been identified on the human genome.  Some of these SNPs are associated with disease; others are associated with normal traits.

The authors were looking specifically for SNPs that were present in all five “diagnostic” categories as opposed to earlier studies that had focused mainly on single “diagnoses.”

The researchers found that:  “SNPs at four loci surpassed the cutoff for genome-wide significance…”  The researchers conclude that: “…specific SNPs are associated with a range of psychiatric disorders of childhood onset or adult onset.”

Two of the four SNPs are in locations known to be associated with voltage-gated calcium channels in the brain.


Firstly, the opening statement on the PGC’s home page is:  “The purpose of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) is to conduct meta-analyses of genome-wide genetic data for psychiatric disease.”  In other words, they are pre-committed to the notion that the categories listed in the DSM are diseases.  Accordingly, and perhaps inevitably, they view the four SNPs which reached statistical significance as pathological variations, rather than normal trait variations.

Secondly, genes determine anatomical structure.  Biological function, of course, arises from structure, but is modified by environmental factors.  Behavior also draws from structure, but the link is becoming increasingly tenuous and unreliable.  For instance, we humans walk upright because of the configuration of our legs, arms, torso, etc. (structure), but the fact that a person might walk in a military style, say, is more a function of his training (i.e. environment) than his genes.  Indeed the statement:  ‘he walks in a military style because of his genes’ would, I think, generally be considered silly.  As behavior becomes more complex the genetic impact is increasingly diluted.

Thirdly, if you study the genetic make-up of almost any group of people who frequently engage in a common activity, you will probably find a significant correlation to a genetic factor if your sample size is large enough.  Consider the example of people who play American football.  It’s obvious to anybody with even a passing familiarity with this sport that the players have two noteworthy characteristics:  they are above average in size, and they are extremely brave.  Now I know very little of biology or genetics, but I would be surprised if there were not SNPs, or more likely groupings of SNPs, that correlate with these two traits.  The association might be quite small, but if your sample size is 33,000 (as in the PGC’s study) even very small effects will achieve statistical significance.  But nobody would conclude from this that playing football is an illness or even a symptom of an illness.  Nor would we say that people play football because of their genes.  And we would recognize that lots of big, brave people don’t play football.

Fourthly, the associations found by the PGC researchers, although statistically significant, were apparently quite modest.  “As in almost all G(enome) W(ide) A(ssociation) S(tudies) of complex disorders reported so far, the effect sizes of genome-wide significant loci are individually quite small and the variance they account for is insufficient for predictive or diagnostic usefulness by themselves.” (p 8 of the study)

Fifthly, there is an underlayment of genetic involvement in all behavior.  You can’t pick up a pencil or stab someone with a knife if your genetic material doesn’t provide for an opposable thumb.  You can’t become depressed if your genetic code has no provision for the production of emotional apparatus.  And so on.  To find slight associations between SNPs and behavior simply reflects the fact that the genome is the organism’s blueprint.

Sixthly, calcium plays an important role in regulating neuronal excitability.  The voltage-sensitive calcium channels modulate the amount of calcium available to the neuron which, in turn, modulates the neuronal excitability which, again in turn, could lead to behavioral excitability in certain circumstances.  But neither behavioral excitability nor its absence is an illness.   In and of themselves they are not even problems.  They are variations of normal, though in certain circumstances they could become problems.

A headline in yesterday’s New York Daily News said:  “Five most common mental illnesses share a common genetic basis….”

It might more accurately have said:  A non-homogeneous group of people who are defined by the presence of vaguely-defined behaviors have been found to have certain genes with greater frequency than people who are not members of this group.

A complication in this whole area arises from the fact that some (in my view a very small minority) of the individuals who attract psychiatric “diagnoses” do indeed have something wrong with their brains.  I can’t actually prove this, but I would be very surprised if it were not so.  So we’re always going to find slight correlations between particular “diagnoses” and physical factors such as genes, neurotransmitters, etc…  But the vast majority of “diagnosed” individuals have nothing wrong with their brains.  It is fallacious to assume an underlying physical pathology based on a person’s behavior.  If I walk with a limp for instance, it may be because of a genetic defect.  But it might also be because my father walked with a limp, and I modeled my walking behavior on him; or because I’m trying to find an excuse to avoid work; or because I’m acting in a play; or because I’m a physiotherapist and trying to get a feel for my clients’ difficulties; or because my shoes are too tight; or because I’m intoxicated, etc., etc…


More Thoughts on Dr. Novella’s Articles

This post is a continuation of my post Steven Novella M.D. and Mental Illness Denial.

In Mental Illness Denial Part I, Dr. Novella makes the point that various parts of the brain enable us to do certain things, and that if we are doing these things dysfunctionally, or not well, or perhaps not at all, then clearly there is something wrong with that part of the brain.  The example he gives is the activity of paying attention – but I think this is provided as an example, and that Dr. Novella intended his comments to apply to the full range of problems embraced by the DSM.

In the earlier post I pointed out the logical flaw in Dr. Novella’s position, but since then I have thought of a computer analogy that might help clarify my position.  (Please note that I am NOT saying that people are computers – it’s an analogy!)

Imagine a computer expert who had a grudge against a company and decided to sabotage their systems so that a particular adverse event would occur as soon as the staff booted up next morning.

Now, I know nothing about computers, but broadly speaking, I think there are two ways that our disgruntled individual could achieve his goal.  Firstly he could open up the machine and break something or fiddle with something or whatever, so that when the machines were activated, the adverse event would occur.  Or, secondly, he could leave the machines intact and program them to malfunction in the way desired.  So what we have is:  two completely different ways of achieving the same effect.

Of course the analogy to people is that brain damage, or illness, or “imbalance” (i.e. hardware damage) can cause aberrant behavior, but aberrant behavior can also occur in the absence of any actual damage (i.e. through programming).

And, the analogy can be pushed further.  All four of our children work in the computer field, and one of the things I’ve picked up over the years is that different programmers have different styles.  If you ask ten programmers to write a piece of code to perform a certain task, there’s every likelihood that you will get ten different programs – all of which will work fine and will perform the task.

The analogy here is that when it comes to behavior, there is always more than one way to get to the same place.

Some people are “crazy” because their brains really are damaged, but there are other ways that a person could acquire similar behaviors even though there is nothing actually wrong with his brain.  Parents, for instance, could actively teach a child craziness by rewarding any instance of crazy behavior that the child emitted.  (I’m not suggesting that parents do this – but simply mentioning it as an extreme possibility.) In my experience, most craziness results from a combination of an overly demanding upbringing (usually well-intentioned) plus a significant experience of failure in late adolescence/early adulthood.  I think it is also likely that people can be driven crazy by persistent cruelty and mistreatment.  And of course it’s pretty well-established that criminals sometimes become crazy when faced with the possibility of severe punishment for their crimes.

Back to Dr. Novella.  In the same article he expresses the view that “mental illness deniers” fall into three broad groups:

1.  Scientologists

2.  People who “rail” against the abuses of psychiatry (which Dr. Novella contends are ancient history, and don’t occur today)

3.  Conspiracy theorists who see something sinister or untoward in the relationship between psychiatrists and big pharma.

Note what he’s done.  He pretends that he is engaging in honest debate about the ontological status of the conditions known as mental illnesses.  But right from the start he marginalizes his opponents (almost to the point of ridicule).  Is this a path to honest dialogue?

With regard to group #3 above, the fact is that the psychiatric profession is embroiled with the pharmaceutical companies to a degree that is venal, corrupting, self-serving, and in far too many cases, contrary to clients’ interests.  “Eminent” psychiatrists have been paid large sums of money for putting their names to ghost-written peer-reviewed articles that were essentially pharmaceutical company brochures.  Psychiatric research has been hi-jacked shamelessly by pharmaceutical dollars, and it is only very recently, and under extreme pressure, that psychiatric researchers have been declaring their financial ties to these companies.

I have addressed these issues numerous times throughout the website, as have other writers both on the ‘net and in conventional print, and in peer reviewed journals.  If there is anyone who doubts the validity of these concerns, search the Internet for: conflict of interest, psychiatry, and big pharma.  You will be inundated.

But according to Dr. Novella, because I draw attention to this proven, well-documented, and widespread corruption and dishonesty, I’m a conspiracy theorist!

This I have come to recognize as typical of how Dr. Novella operates.  As far as he is concerned mental illnesses are brain illnesses – period.  There’s nothing more to be said, and anyone who opposes this belief is ridiculed, marginalized, pushed aside.  Even the word “denier” is used in his articles in the same sense as “evolution denier,” “climate change denier,” “Holocaust denier,” etc…  Dr. Novella’s stance is particularly disappointing in that he is, according to Wikipedia, the president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society.  One might reasonably have expected from him a little more skepticism in the psychiatric field.

Now, I’m very comfortable with dialogue and debate.  There has been a great deal of disagreement on this website, and hopefully there’ll be more.  But Dr. Novella’s tactics are tawdry and unworthy.

Childhood Bipolar Disorder

Prior to about 1994, childhood bipolar disorder was virtually unheard of.  DSM-III-R (1987), in the section on manic episode, states, “…studies indicate that the mean age at onset is in the early 20s.  However…a sizable number of new cases appear after age 50.”(p 216)  Of course a mean age of onset in the early 20’s could include young children.  The section on major depressive episode, however, contains the following:  “The average age of onset is in the late 20s, but a major depressive episode may begin at any age, including infancy.” (p 220)

If, in fact, the APA envisaged the possibility of bipolar disorder occurring in infancy, wouldn’t they have included some similar phrase in the mania section?

DSM-IV (1994) confirms the mean age of onset in the early 20s, but extends the range downward to “adolescence.”  There is no indication of this condition in younger children.

In 1994, Joseph Biederman, a Harvard psychiatrist, began to promote the concept of childhood bipolar disorder.  In this he was ably abetted by the pharmaceutical industry, with which he was financially entangled to a degree that destroys any semblance of credibility.  Biederman’s financial conflicts were exposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, who has long pushed for complete disclosure in this area.  The NY Times did a very interesting article on the subject, the first paragraph of which reads as follows:

“A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given Congressional investigators.”

The complete article is well worth a look.

Some psychiatrists were alarmed by this development, and spoke out, but the majority (of course) played along.  After all, business is business.

Between 1994 and 2003, there was a 40-fold increase in the number of American children who received this “diagnosis.”  I haven’t been able to find more recent figures, but my impression is that it continues to rise.

Almost without exception, the presenting problem in these children is severe misbehavior and temper tantrums, secondary to ineffective parenting.

The “treatment” consists of drugs: anti-psychotics, anti-convulsants, and lithium carbonate.  The side-effects of these drugs in adults are listed below:

Major Tranquilizers

  • neuroleptic malignant syndrome (potentially fatal)
  • fever, stiff muscles, confusion, sweating, fast or uneven heartbeats;
  • tardive dyskinesia (an irreversible condition involving severely disfiguring and uncontrollable movements, especially constant chewing/grinding movements of the jaws accompanied by tongue protrusion)
  • drooling, tremor (uncontrolled shaking);
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • flu-like symptoms;
  • trouble swallowing;
  • penis erection that is painful or lasts 4 hours or longer.


  • liver damage
  • birth defects in offspring (e.g., spina bifida)
  • pancreatitis

Lithium Carbonate

  • kidney damage
  • birth defects in offspring
  • tiredness
  • uncontrollable shaking
  • muscle weakness, stiffness, twitching
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • seizures

The side effects in young children, whose organs are still developing, are unknown.  Tardive dyskinesia should cause particular concern, in that in the initial stages it is masked by the major tranquilizers, and so is usually quite advanced by the time it is detected.  The condition is irreversible.

The recent “epidemic” of childhood bipolar disorder is just the most recent example of disease-mongering by psychiatrists, but it is somewhat egregious, in that it involves exposing children as young as two years to extraordinarily dangerous drugs.  Even the APA, not noted for restraint in this general area, has expressed some concerns, and there have been indications that DSM-5 will caution against excessive use of this so-called diagnosis.  But don’t get too excited.  The word is that the revision, due out later this year, will simply offer suggestions for alternative “diagnoses.”  My guess is that the drug prescriptions, however, will continue unabated – or even increase.

The reason that psychiatrists can expand the scope of their diagnostic categories with such ease is that the diagnostic concepts have no validity in the first place.  Wood doesn’t become stone just because we say so. And ordinary problems of life don’t become illnesses just because financially-motivated psychiatrists say so.  Childhood temper tantrums are nothing more than childhood temper tantrums.  Re-defining these as symptoms of an illness is arbitrary, unwarranted and unproven.  For the past sixty years, the primary agenda of American psychiatry has been the medicalization of ordinary human problems in order to legitimize the administration of drugs.

The concept of mental illness is nonsense – but in the hands of psychiatrists, it is dangerous and destructive nonsense.

The psychiatrists, of course, say that they are trying to alleviate the previously unrecognized suffering of these children and their families, and that the dovetailing of their selfless devotion with their own financial interests is purely incidental.

But in fact, labeling children as bipolar and prescribing drugs as a substitute for learning to cope is simply one more step in psychiatry’s endless process of disempowerment.  The message they give to these families and to these children is – you can’t cope.  Come to us you huddled, helpless masses, and we will drug you – for money.

Corruption of Research by Drug Companies

At present the pharmaceutical companies are responsible for testing the effectiveness and safety of their own products.  In recent years there have been numerous reports of dishonest practices in this area, including suppression of unfavorable results and massaging of data to create the impression that a drug is more effective than is actually the case.

Recently, Christopher Lane publicized a particularly egregious example of this from England.

The drug at the center of this scandal is reboxetine.  It is not available in the US, but is widely prescribed in the UK and in sixty other countries for depression, panic disorder, and ADHD.

Apparently seven trials were conducted on this drug.  Only one showed a positive result, and only this one was published.  The other six trials showed that reboxetine was no better than a sugar pill.

This kind of suppression of evidence and subsequent exaggeration of a product’s effectiveness apparently is not illegal, either in the UK or the US.

Business as usual.