Warnings about drug company-funded mental health websites

A paper by New Zealand researchers published in the journal, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica (subscription required for full text access*), summarizes a literature review and meta-analysis of drug company–funded mental health websites. The analysis compared mental websites funded by drug companies with those not funded by pharma.  It concludes:

Practitioners are encouraged to inform patients about the bias inherent in industry-sponsored websites and to recommend, instead, more balanced websites that present a range of evidence-based information about causes and treatment.

From the article:

  • Mental health websites, in general, are biased in favor of biological explanations and medical treatments.
  • Drug company–funded websites were more biased than non-drug-company-funded sites, and cannot be considered an objective source of mental health information, for the public or practitioners.
  • The pervasive international influence of the pharmaceutical industry in all aspects of mental health policy, practice and research now clearly extends to the internet.
  • Because some of the websites may not have disclosed industry funding, the reported prevalences of drug company funding, and the differences between sites funded and not funded by drug companies, may be underestimates.

Susan Perry wrote more about the study on MinnPost.com.

* Read J, Cain A. A literature review and meta-analysis of drug company–funded mental health websites. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2013: 1–12.DOI: 10.1111/acps.12146


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Comments (3)

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Judith Ronat M. D.

May 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

When referring to a journal article, as you do at the beginning of this piece, could you include the email address of the corresponding author, so that interested readers could request an eprint?

    Gary Schwitzer

    May 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm


    Thanks for your note. I’ll try to remember, but can’t promise. I alone manage this blog and my checklist of to-do items on each piece is already long.

Michael Brown, MD

May 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The author’s address is j.read@auckland.ac.nz