Biederman and other researchers may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest.
Dr. Biederman reported no income from Johnson & Johnson for 2001 in a disclosure report filed with the university. When asked to check again, he said he received $3,500. But Johnson & Johnson said that it paid him $58,169 in 2001.
Biederman’s consulting arrangements with drug makers were already controversial because of his advocacy of unapproved uses of psychiatric medicines in children.
Articles like these make it very clear to me that the practice of prescribing antipsychotic drugs to children is, in the vast majority of cases, a complete scam by the drug companies. The research behind the recommendations to use these drugs is so flimsy a light breeze can rip it to shreds.
The fact that researchers are asked to comply with conflict of interest rules based on the honor system obviously does not help the situation. Universities do virtually nothing to verify the accuracy of these voluntary disclosures.
I agree with U.S. Senator Grassley that this kind of conflict of interest needs to be made more transparent and monitored. His proposed legislation to create a national registry for disclosure of industry payments to scientists and researching physicians is a great start.
Honest Is as Honest Does… Right?
Dr. Biederman is the Chief Clinical and Research in Pediatric Psychopharmacology at the Massachusetts General in Boston, MA, and a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
In addition to receiving awards of excellence from both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Biederman is also on the editorial board of multiple journals, a reviewer for most of the Psychiatric journals, and has served as a grant reviewer in the Child Psychopathology and Treatment Review Committee of the NIMH.
The fact that Dr. Biederman chose NOT to do the right thing in this honor system of disclosure of financial conflicts of interest really opens the door to the question: Where else does Dr. Biederman choose not to fly straight?
Through-and-through honest people generally tend to be honest in most areas of life, not just when on the job. So his claim that he’s honest and conflict-free in his research findings (just not so much in his financial statements), doesn’t sit quite right.
The Explosion of Childhood Bipolar Disorder
In the past decade, Dr. Biederman and his colleagues have promoted the aggressive diagnosis and drug treatment of childhood bipolar disorder, maintaining that it was underdiagnosed in children and is treatable with drugs.
Based on their influence, pediatric bipolar diagnoses and antipsychotic drug use in children have soared. In 2007 alone, half a million children and teenagers were given at least one prescription for an antipsychotic, including 20,500 under the age of six.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 7 percent of all children seen at psychiatric facilities fit the bipolar disorder criteria, using research standards – much of which originated from Dr. Biederman and company at Harvard.
The Dangerous Side Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs
The drugs given to children diagnosed with bipolar disorder are typically:
- Anticonvulsants (e.g., Depakote or other valproate products)
- Atypical neuroleptics (e.g., risperidone, olanzapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole, quetiapine)
Even though atypical neuroleptics are approved only for adults, the rate of children treated with atypicals is growing dramatically faster than the rate for adults, according to Robert Epstein, chief medical officer for Medco Health Solutions.
In an analysis that Medco did for USA TODAY, a sampling of about 2.5 million of Medco's 55 million members revealed that the rate of children under the age of 19 with at least one atypical prescription jumped 80 percent from 2001 to 2005 — from 3.6 per 1,000 to 6.5 per 1,000. And that only represents kids who have private insurance, not those in foster care or others on Medicaid.
I don’t even advocate giving children cough syrup, Tylenol or antibiotics, as these alone can be very harmful. But when you’re talking about powerful psychotropic, mind-altering drugs, you’re entering an entirely different ballgame.
Aside from the immediate risk of death, another serious and widespread problem caused by these drugs is excessive weight gain and metabolic problems.
The effect varies by drug, but children typically gain TWICE as much weight in the first six months on atypicals as they should through normal growth, adding an average of 2 to 3 inches to their waistline. A lot of this is abdominal fat, which also increases their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Some experts claim that the weight gain and metabolic problems caused by the drugs make it difficult to conclude that the medications actually improve children’s lives in the long run.
Drugs Are Not the Answer to Children’s Behavioral Problems
I realize that many parents decide to put their children on a psychotropic drug because they believe it will help them and that they have no choice. However, even the experts can’t agree on the proper way to diagnose children with bipolar and other mental disorders, which means the chances of your child being misdiagnosed and needlessly drugged are high.
I have treated many hundreds of children with varying levels of behavioral problems and disorders and have consistently seen them improve once the underlying toxicities and food changes were addressed. So parents, let me assure you that there is hope!
You can view my interview with the late pediatric expert Dr. Lendon Smith on this topic.
There can also be extreme pressure to give your kids prescription drugs, with some public schools even accusing parents of child abuse when they resist giving their kids drugs such as Ritalin.
In fact, parents who try to resist this insanity in their own homes can even have their children taken away. In one such case, a 6-year-old mildly autistic boy was taken into state custody after his mother refused medications for him.
Correcting Behavioral Problems Without Drugs
Behavioral problems in children – including what might appear to be a more serious mental disorder -- are very frequently related to improper diet, emotional upset and exposure to toxins. To address these underlying toxins in your own child, without resorting to drugs:
1. Give your child plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil.
2. Balance your child’s intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fats (from vegetables oils), by limiting their intake of vegetable oils.
3. Avoid giving your child ANY processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
4. Replace soft drinks, fruit juices, and pasteurized milk in your child’s diet with pure water. This is HUGE since high fructose corn syrup is the NUMBER ONE source of calories in children -- remember this includes fruit juices!
5. Reduce or eliminate grains and sugars from your child’s diet -- yes even healthy organic whole grains can cause problems. Try eliminating them first for 1-2 weeks and see if you don’t notice a radical and amazing improvement in your child’s behavior.
6. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime in the sunshine.
7. Give your child a way to deal with his or her emotions. Even children can benefit from the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which you or an EFT practitioner can teach them how to use.