Sunday, June 08, 2008

Childhood Psychiatric Meds on NYT Cover

As I picked up the bagels on the little shop on Dempster with the kindly older lady with the Russian accent (yes I will miss hearing just as much Russian as Spanish--and the fresh bagels) I was surprised to see this article on the front page of the NY Times on potential conflict of interest

Dr. Biederman is one of the most influential researchers in child psychiatry and is widely admired for focusing the field’s attention on its most troubled young patients. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, his work helped to fuel a controversial 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings, and a rapid rise in the use of antipsychotic medicines in children. The Grassley investigation did not address research quality.

Doctors have known for years that antipsychotic drugs, sometimes called major tranquilizers, can quickly subdue children. But youngsters appear to be especially susceptible to the weight gain and metabolic problems caused by the drugs, and it is far from clear that the medications improve children’s lives over time, experts say.

In the last 25 years, drug and device makers have displaced the federal government as the primary source of research financing, and industry support is vital to many university research programs. But as corporate research executives recruit the brightest scientists, their brethren in marketing departments have discovered that some of these same scientists can be terrific pitchmen.

I'm not sure what is bringing this out in the open but there definitely seems to be increased coverage in the media about the challenges of diagnosing and treating childhood bipolar. And regardless of where one sides with the issue, that is a good thing -- because diagnosis is tricky, treatment is tricky and the meds are tricky. None of it is for the feint of heart.

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