The New York Times published a superb article this Sunday on the overdiagnosis of ADHD and the overprescription of stimulant medications (see Aaron’s discussion here). Among the lowlights of the ADHD story was the corruption of physicians by pharmaceutical companies, who paid them to shill for the drugs. A notorious case was Dr. Joseph Biederman,
a prominent child psychiatrist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2008, a Senate investigation revealed that Dr. Biederman’s research on many psychiatric conditions had been substantially financed by drug companies… Those companies also paid him $1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees. He has denied that the payments influenced his research.
ADHD is not unique. There are similar stories throughout medicine.
But perhaps the tide has turned. Katie Thomas reports that:
The British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will no longer pay doctors to promote its products and will stop tying compensation of sales representatives to the number of prescriptions doctors write, its chief executive said Monday, effectively ending two common industry practices that critics have long assailed as troublesome conflicts of interest.
Let’s hope that the other drug and medical device manufacturers follow GSK’s lead. And hope hope hope that Direct-To-Consumer drug advertising might be the next practice to go.