Health News Review

A Minneapolis-area psychiatrist, Charles Dean, published an opinion piece in the Star Tribune, “Rise in ADHD cases is due to marketing.

It appeared adjacent to the Strib’s republishing of the NYT op-ed piece, “Diagnosis:  Human,” by Ted Gup – that we blogged about yesterday.

Dr. Dean writes:

“The 53 percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD in the past 10 years cannot be explained on the basis of genetics or any other biological discovery that would permit a valid diagnosis.

Instead, this remarkable increase is simply the result of marketing by Big Pharma, of mutual back-scratching within the medical-industrial complex, and of parental fears over behaviors that might affect their kids’ chances of success.

But ADHD and the use of stimulants such as Ritalin are only part of the larger picture of the medicalization of virtually every form of behavior that deviates even slightly from a mythical norm.

True, ADHD set the tone after it was introduced in the diagnostic manual (DSM-II) in 1968 as “hyperkinetic disorder of childhood,” then was changed to ADHD in 1980 in the famous — or infamous — DSM-III. The result? By 1995, there were 6 million prescriptions being written for Ritalin every year, with sales of stimulants rising from $4 billion in 2007 to $9 billion in 2012.

In the meantime, there was a sixfold increase in the use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents from 1993-2002. But 86 percent of antipsychotic use was aimed at treating nonpsychotic conduct and other behavioral disorders, despite the significant metabolic and neurological consequences of drugs such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Seroquel.

So why not use a combination of stimulants and antipsychotics in the treatment of ADHD? Indeed. Use of the combination increased a whopping 600 percent between 1990 and 2007, never mind the consequences.

Depression and bipolar disorder weren’t left out of these epidemics. As the epidemiologist Julie Zito has noted, only one in 250 American children under 19 was taking an antidepressant in 1998.

By 2002, this had increased to one in 40. A similar increase has been seen in adults, with a 300 percent increase in the use of antidepressants from the late 1980s (when Prozac came out) to 2000. In the period, the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder rose 40-fold.

Again, none of this is explainable on the basis of biology or genetics. It is market-driven.”

By the way, you may be interested in reading Paul Raeburn’s analysis on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker about the news story that spread the word about the new ADHD data from the CDC.  Headline:”NY Times scoops CDC on agency’s own data. But did the Times get it right?


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Tom posted on April 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

Interesting that Dr. Dean cites 3 reasons for the increase in ADHD diagnoses (second paragraph of the post), while your headline singled one of them out. I suppose you chose one of them at random, because, after all, headlines need to be short, don’t they.

    Gary Schwitzer posted on April 4, 2013 at 9:48 am


    Thanks for your note.

    Did you miss the fact that Dr. Dean’s own headline was, “Rise in ADHD cases is due to marketing.” ?? His headline, not mine.

    Anyone who visits our site can see very quickly that its primary focus is on media messages – news, marketing, advertising, public relations.

    So it should not be surprising that I chose to highlight the suggested impact of marketing in the headline. Readers are not deprived of the fuller context. A link to the original article is provided, and, as you noted, the excerpt I included also listed a broader context.

    Gary Schwitzer

Daniel Haszard posted on April 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

Remember-Zyprexa (Olanzapine) Diabetes connection conflict of interest.
Eli Lilly made $70 billion to date,paid $1.4 billion in criminal fines.
Thousands got diabetes as Zyprexa side effect and have to take Lilly insulin to treat the diabetes that was caused by their Zyprexa.
Eli Lilly Zyprexa can ruin your Pancreas and make you a type 2 diabetic in just a few months of use.I took it 1996-2000 and now am a diabetic for it.
‘Atypical’ antipsychotic Zyprexa is the worst offender of them all.Google-Haszard Zyprexa – got a page up.
-Daniel Haszard

Tom posted on April 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

Yes, I did miss Dr. Dean’s headline–thanks. And I have read long enough to understand–and appreciate–what the site is all about. Good work,