For any mental illness or passing mood swing that may trouble a person, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — better known as the DSM — has a label and a code. Recurring bad dreams? That may be a Nightmare Disorder, or 307.47. Narcolepsy uses the same digits in a different order: 347.00. Fancy feather ticklers? That sounds like Fetishism, or 302.81. Then there’s the ultimate catch-all for vague sadness or uneasiness, General Anxiety Disorder, or 300.02. That’s a label almost everyone can lay claim to.Drug companies are particularly eager to win over faculty psychiatrists at prestigious academic medical centers. Called “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) by the industry, these are the people who through their writing and teaching influence how mental illness will be diagnosed and treated. They also publish much of the clinical research on drugs and, most importantly, largely determine the content of the DSM. In a sense, they are the best sales force the industry could have, and are worth every cent spent on them. Of the 170 contributors to the current version of the DSM (the DSM-IV-TR), almost all of whom would be described as KOLs, ninety-five had financial ties to drug companies, including all of the contributors to the sections on mood disorders and schizophrenia.
Is America truly stricken with widespread mental illness? Do tens of millions need mind-altering drugs? A recent flurry of media articles lead readers to a realization that Big Pharma and the “mental health” industry have deceived Americans on a grand scale.
The “New York Review of Books” two-part article by Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former Editor in Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, summarizes it extremely well. She analyzes three books by authors Irving Kirsch, Robert Whitaker, and Daniel Carlat. Each deconstructs the apparent mental illness epidemic and theory that mental disorders stem from brain chemical imbalances which can be corrected by drugs.
Dr. Angell’s review has sparked a host of other journalists to applaud her and fuel the fire. An article in Forbes even concludes, “psychopharma is looking like an idea whose time has passed.”
Dr. Brent Forester, a geriatric psychiatrist at McLean, was one of the Massachusetts physicians paid the most last year, when he made $73,100 for giving nearly 40 talks for Eli Lilly to colleagues about the antipsychotic Zyprexa and the antidepressant Cymbalta over dinners in restaurants and in doctors offices. He has resigned from speakers bureaus to comply with the new rules, but said he “never felt like a spokesperson for the company at all.’’