The Australian – July 5, 2011
AUSTRALIA’S ADHD guidelines are being redeveloped as a US psychiatrist whose work is heavily cited in existing draft guidelines has been sanctioned by Harvard University for violating conflict-of-interest rules.
Professor Joseph Biederman and two colleagues, Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens, were investigated by Harvard after allegedly failing to report to the university millions of dollars they received from drug firms.
Australia’s National Health and Medical Council held off approving the draft guidelines for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder issued in 2009 as it awaited the outcome of the US conflict-of-interest investigation.
The Boston Globe reported that, in a letter to their colleagues, Professor Biederman, Dr Spencer and Dr Wilens apologised for their “honest” mistakes and said they had been sanctioned.
The National Health and Medical Research Council said yesterday it could not yet assess the impact of the outcome of the Harvard investigation on the scientific literature and said the draft guidelines citing Professor Biederman would remain on its website.
Independently of the Harvard review, the council had appointed a multi-disciplinary panel to develop new clinical practice points to provide clear advice to clinicians and health professionals for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, the council said.
The review will be completed in September, but the council was last night unable to provide The Australian with names of the experts involved.
In 2007, Daryl Effron, who chaired the committee that drew up Australia’s draft ADHD guidelines, resigned as chairperson after his ties with pharmaceutical companies that produce ADHD drugs were exposed. He remains on the committee.
About 350,000 Australian children and adolescents are estimated to have ADHD and controversy has been raging about the use of medications such as Ritalin.
Child psychiatrist Professor Jon Jureidini, who argues against the long-term use of stimulant drugs in treating behavioural problems tagged as ADHD, says that the current guidelines rely heavily on Professor Biederman’s work.
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