Further Evidence of Pharmaceutical Paybacks influencing Prescribing

Message for you

It is important for parents and young people with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, ADHD and aggressive behaviors to understand why anti-psychotics are prescribed as the first line of treatment. This study reveals the corrupt nature of this clinical decision-making. 

Double-blind Study Leading to Clinical Treatment Guidelines for Atypical Anti-psychotics for Adolescent Bipolar Disorder

In a 2005 study, a guidelines panel for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry made atypical anti-psychotics the first-line treatment for adolescent bipolar disorder (McClellan, Kowatch and Findling, 2007). Three of the four physicians on the panel had been speakers or consultants for industry — two for AstraZeneca, which manufactures the atypical antipsychotic, Seroquel (quetiapine) (Harris, 2007)

A journalist, Thacker, suggested that industry ties may have influenced clinical treatment guidelines. The New York Times also identified industry ties to authors of publications cited by the panel. AstraZeneca had Melissa DelBello, a prominent researcher at the University of Cincinnati (UC) who became a consultant and speaker for AstraZeneca after the study'”s publication . Asked how much industry funding she received, she responded, “Trust me, I don’t make much.”.

DelBello’s refusal to disclose led journalist Thacker to ask UC for her disclosures . He also asked AstraZeneca to report its payments to her. Thacker discovered notable discrepancies: DelBello disclosed $100,000 from AstraZeneca in 2003 (the year after her quetiapine publication), while AstraZeneca reported paying her $238,000. Thacker also learned that DelBello was principal investigator on several NIH (National Institute of Health grants.

But the exposure had limited impact. Transparency has become the politically correct term for corruption. The NIH took no action, and UC did not strengthen its conflict of interest policies. The consequences for DelBello were minor. The university required DelBello’s department chair to enter the lapses in her personnel file and to review all her industry interactions . The university also announced an investigation but minimized DelBello’s wrongdoing: “The main point is how the perceived conflict of interest is disclosed. As long as you disclose it, then it’s fine.” DelBello remains associate professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and Vice Chair of Clinical Research . Since 2007, she has been principal investigator on three NIH-funded projects . She continues to make decisions regarding your children’s mental healthcare.

[1] Double-blind study: an experimental procedure in which neither the subjects of the experiment nor the persons administering the experiment know the critical aspects of the experiment; “a double-blind procedure is used to guard against both experimenter bias and placebo effects”


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