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A man who compromises the health of children to make himself rich is a predator

To catch a predator

We were all stunned. Around the office, on Facebook, overheard conversations in coffee shops…everyone said the same thing: How could Casey Anthony have been acquitted?

Because there’s something about hurting a child that shakes us — individually and as a society — to the very core.

Now imagine someone who may have put thousands of children in harm’s way over a decade. And not because he was sick or didn’t know what he was doing, but only in search of the almighty dollar.

And, in the end, his punishment is even less than the judge in Florida managed to eek out for Anthony.

Opening arguments

A prominent Harvard psychiatrist spends a decade conducting influential research that radically redefines the criteria for bipolar diagnosis in children.

His research helped result in thousands of kids with behavioral problems (some as young as 2) being diagnosed as bipolar and treated with powerful antipsychotic drugs.

During this same period, the psychiatrist accepts generous payments from drug companies that produce antipsychotic drugs, but he grossly underreports his earnings to Harvard.

When Congress investigates, he finally divulges his drug company earnings over the decade of research: $1.6 million. (Yes…it was so bad that Congress had to investigate his offenses. No local prosecutors on this one…)

In addition, court documents reveal that he once assured Johnson & Johnson executives that research he was involved in would end up showing benefits of two different antipsychotic drugs made by J&J.

This once-prestigious psychiatrist’s name is Dr. Joseph Biederman. He and two colleagues were recently reprimanded by Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

But their “punishment” is a ridiculous sham — miles away from the harsh comeuppance these wealthy predators deserve.

Undoing a decade of harm

There is one ray of good news in the Biederman fiasco.

Last year I told you about changes that will appear in the upcoming revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM, as it’s known, is psychiatry’s combination guidebook and encyclopedia.

The definition of bipolar disorder in children will be significantly changed in the revised DSM. So going forward, kids with behavioral problems are much more likely to receive other treatments, such as talk therapy, before resorting to powerful antipsychotic drugs.

So it looks like mainstream psychiatry’s Biederman bender may be coming to an end.

Unfortunately, Biederman isn’t gone.

Harvard and MGH placed sanctions on Biederman and his two side kicks. They must refrain from “all industry-sponsored outside activities” for one year. For the two years after that, they have to get permission from Harvard and MGH before they can again line their pockets with “outside activities.”

There are other details, but these two items are the most severe. Severe? They’re a sweet little rap on the wrist! And this is the full extent of their punishment!

In response, Biederman and his boys wrote a letter of apology to their colleagues. They state: “We always believed we were complying in good faith with the institutional polices and our mistakes were honest ones.”

Oops! Just a little bookkeeping error. Couple of zeros missing. Honest mistakes! Sorry about that. But we’re all good here, right?

I really didn’t expect Harvard to subject them to a public horsewhipping (which they richly deserve), but I was hoping they would at least be barred from ever again engaging in research that involved children.

Three years from now these men will be free to fully return to the very lucrative comfort of their drug company associations.

Hopefully, by then the children they needlessly drugged will have recovered.

“Harvard Docs Disciplined for Conflicts of Interest” Ed Silverman, Pharmalot, 7/2/11,

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