A Tale of Censorship and Secrecy Starring the American Psychiatric Association

Alison Bass

First published 4/4/11 on Alison Bass

Psychiatry is supposed to be all about disclosure, disclosing the dark secrets of one’s past to a professional in an effort to heal or, at the very least, figure out why one is in such psychic pain. But given the recent actions of the American Psychiatric Association, the largest trade group for psychiatrists in the U.S., one might get the impression that the profession is really all about censorship and obfuscation.

Remember when the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), as part of an effort to get the NIH to crack down on ghostwriting, released documents showing that a psychopharmacology handbook for primary care doctors, authored by then psychiatry kingpins Charles Nemeroff and Alan Schatzberg, had actually been ghost-written by a company hired by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the blockbuster antidepressant, Paxil? The New York Times broke the story last fall, relying on internal Glaxo documents obtained in the course of a lawsuit against the drug giant, and a number of other journalists, including myself, blogged about it — see here. The documents showed that Glaxo hired Scientific Therapeutics Information (STI) to prepare a draft of the textbook with the understanding that Glaxo could review the initial drafts before publication. The handbook itself, which was published in 1999 by the APA, essentially promoted Paxil, among other drugs, as a safe and effective treatment for anxiety and depression.

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