The Incredibly Corrupt Practices of Dr. Joseph Biederman – the Most Influential ADHD Researcher

In a system where the FDA has also been compromised, this section focuses on the unethical practices of one of psychiatry’s most influential key opinion leaders who are mainly responsible for the recognition of ADHD as a “serious brain disease” requiring treatment with medication. In his self-serving career, Dr. Joseph Biederman has not only succeeded at highly influencing the consensus to create the ADHD drug prescription epidemic, but has also created the antipsychotic drug prescription epidemic for children.

The New York Times article “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder” is a well-researched eye-opener describing how the ADHD drug makers have compromised the medical world.[62] Many similar news reports, as well as congressional and FBI investigations have announced the names of numerous influential psychiatrists who have failed to report all of the research funding or personal payments they accepted from the drug makers. These investigations have been featured by numerous media outlets.[239] [240] [241] [242] [243] [244] [245] [246] Among these compromised psychiatrists, Dr. Joseph Biederman is “unequivocally the most published psychopharmacology maven for A.D.H.D.,” reports the New York Times.[62] Biederman is an esteemed professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also the chief of the Clinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD at the Massachusetts General Hospital. About this researcher, the New York Times reports:

Findings from Dr. Biederman’s dozens of studies on the disorder and specific brands of stimulants have filled the posters and pamphlets of pharmaceutical companies that financed the work.[62]

The same New York Times article also reports that Biederman’s findings about ADHD typically delivered three messages:

The disorder was underdiagnosed; stimulants were effective and safe; and unmedicated A.D.H.D. led to significant risks for academic failure, drug dependence, car accidents and brushes with the law.[62]

While Biederman published such findings for years, he avoided fully disclosing all of the drug company contributions he received, making them seem like they were within the legal limits. But when Senator Charles Grassley’s investigations uncovered the actual amount of money Biederman had been taking, this violated both federal research rules and those of his university.[243]

Biederman has unfortunately not lost his revered position as a full professor at Harvard, when all he got was “a little slap on the wrist,” points out Dr. Jerome Kassirer who is a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.[247] As reported by the Boston Globe, Harvard gave only minor penalties to Biederman and other compromised colleagues, which included requiring them to refrain from all industry-sponsored activities for only one year, with an additional 2 year monitoring period.[247] Biederman and his colleagues will then be allowed to go back to pulling in the huge amounts of money they used to provide their college.

The great influence Biederman has had over his peers and how his-pseudo-science shaped the consensus was first identified in 2005 by the organization Essential Science Indicators, which reports that for ADHD over the past decade, it was Biederman whose research was cited the most.[248] In another report by Thomson Reuters titled “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2015,” Biederman comes fifth from the top in the category of the world’s most influential psychiatrists.[249]

Biederman’s high influence has helped spread “the notion accepted today that ADHD is a treatable, serious brain disorder of genetic etiology.”[248] In addition to promoting stimulants to treat this so called “serious brain disorder,” Biederman promoted expanding the use of other medications previously not used for ADHD in trying to increase the market share for these drugs. One such medication is Provigil (generically named Modafinil). Upon receiving research funding from this drug’s manufacturer Cephalon, Biederman published an article in 2006 recommending using modafinil for ADHD.[250] But two colleagues challenged this article by writing to the editor of the journal in which it was published. This letter states that Biederman’s paper “appears to seriously misrepresent modafinil’s neuropharmacologic characteristics, contradicting the science-based evaluation of the data by the U.S. FDA and DEA.”[251] This letter also states:

Dr. Biederman’s misrepresentation of the serious risks posed by this drug, whose target population is children with ADHD, requires reexamination and correction.”[251]

In addition to using his great influence to popularize ADHD drugs, Biederman is also credited with being mainly responsible for the alarming increase of the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children.[243] [252] Biederman “will go down in history as the inventor of pediatric bipolar disorder,” observes Dr. Philip Hickey, PhD.[253] Biederman promoted treating the millions of so-called bipolar children with antipsychotic drugs which are known to have the worst side effects among all psychiatric medications. The adverse effects of antipsychotic drugs include obesity which can make people gain hundreds of pounds of excess weight and develop hypertension or type 2 diabetes.[254] Antipsychotic medications also tend to cause potentially severe and usually irreversible abnormal movements and tics, as well as chronic brain impairment, brain volume loss or the onset of a life-threatening disorder called neuroleptic malignant syndrome and more.[254] [255] [252]

In November 2008, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Johnson & Johnson gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Biederman “to generate data to help expand sales of the company’s antipsychotic drug Risperdal in children, according to court documents.”[256] Johnson & Johnson was eventually penalized in 2012 for this and other fraudulent practices. Time magazine reports:

Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay up to $2.2 billion for illegally promoting a variety of drugs, primarily the atypical antipsychotic Risperdal – and even that giant settlement with the government doesn’t resolve several other state lawsuits against the company, seeking billions more, for related offenses.[257]

The same Time article states that “the dramatic rise of antipsychotic prescribing in youth occurred in conjunction with the illegal marketing of the drugs by their makers.” Biederman’s large role in this as well as in the unethical popularization of ADHD drugs further came out in 2009, when a New York Times reporter obtained copies of the court documents of Biederman’s interactions with Johnson & Johnson. This revealed that in a slide, Biederman promised Johnson & Johnson, in advance, a favorable study to “extend to adolescents positive findings with Concerta in A.D.H.D. N.O.S. [a category of ADHD] in adults.”[258] The promised positive findings seemed to come out in 2006.[258] This New York Times article also reports that Biederman promised Johnson & Johnson the results of another study before actually conducting it. Biederman told J&J in advance that this study would clarify the advantages of their antipsychotic Risperdal for bipolar disorder in children. The reporter who wrote this New York Times article states in a different article that again according to court documents, Biederman persuaded Johnson & Johnson to fund the Johnson & Johnson Center for the study of pediatric psychopathology, and in doing so, stated one of the goals of the the center’s research as “to move forward the commercial goals of J&J.”[259]

Dr. Joseph Biederman

Not surprisingly, Biederman is a defender of ‘polipharmacy’ which means the use of multiple drugs to treat disorders.[260] He claims that ADHD is “associated with high levels of psychiatric and cognitive comorbidity [simultaneous presence of more than one disorder].”[248] Biederman further claims, “children with BP [bipolar disorder] often also have other disorders and therefore require more than one medication … additional drugs are sometimes needed to treat side effects of another effective but poorly tolerated medication.”[260] Biederman writes, “about eighty percent of children with Bipolar illness also have ADHD.”[261] The influential ADDitude magazine promotes Biederman’s claim by toning it down a bit without citing its sources, stating, “about half the children who have BPD may also have ADHD, which means clinicians often have to determine whether both problems exist.”[262] It may also be recalled that just like Biederman has done with the ADHD and bipolar disorder epidemics, other key opinion leaders have purported that up to half of the children with autism also have ADHD, helping APA justify permitting ADHD meds to be prescribed to autistic people. Thus stimulants are today prescribed to not only ADHD children, but also to the supposedly bipolar and autistic children created by the three false drug prescription epidemics ex-chairman Dr. Frances accuses APA of having fabricated.

This demonstraits that millions of parents have been misled for decades into believing that dangerous psychiatric medications can harmlessly suppress undesired childhood behaviors such as losing pencils in class or not waiting one’s turn in school activities. Influential key opinion leaders like Biederman continue to cause millions of healthy children to be prescribed excessive amounts of harmful medications, while parents educated by compromised organizations like APA allow this. If you believe that your child has suffered documented damages resulting from antipsychotics, ADHD drugs or other medications because you were misled by fraudulent experts who have deliberately violated your right to informed consent, please see if you qualify for seeking damages.

Biederman’s influence seems to have spread due to the willingness of the psychiatric community to embrace his pseudo-science. The results of these efforts can be seen in studies such as the 2012 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, which found that between 2005 to 2009, “in young people, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other disruptive disorders account for a substantial proportion (37.8%) of antipsychotic use.”[263] The same paper reports that in the case of the non-FDA-approved uses of antipsychotics, ADHD was one of the three most common mental disorders for which antipsychotics were prescribed for both children and adolescents. Scientific American quotes Dr. David Rubin, co-director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who states:

What’s really concerning now is that a lot of this prescription is occurring in the face of emerging evidence that there are significant adverse effects that may be worse in youth than in adults.[264]

It was not only Johnson & Johnson which promoted its drugs for off-label uses through channels such as key opinion leaders like Biederman. As reported by Time, the drug companies Eli Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb have all paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for selling their antipsychotic drugs for “unapproved use in youth.”[257] One of the largest of these fines was paid by Bristol Myers Squibb, which “paid $515 million in 2007 to settle charges that it illegally pushed its antipsychotic Abilify to child psychiatrists.”[257] But Squibb seems to have written off this fine too as the cost of doing business without having to reform its unethical ways, which can be seen from the fact that in 2014, Squibb’s style of conducting “business” caused its antipsychotic Abilify to become the number 1 top selling drug among all drugs in all illness categories in the U.S.[265] The New York Times states:

The industry continues to market antipsychotics aggressively, leading analysts to question how drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for about 1 percent of the population have become the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest sellers – despite recent crackdowns.[266]

In the report “Docs on Pharma Payroll Have Blemished Records, Limited Credentials,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom ProPublica has publicized the names of yet more key opinion leaders like Biederman who have been stuffing their wallets.[267] ProPublica has determined that “some highly sought-after key opinion leaders, as they are known in the industry, work for half a dozen or more companies in a given year.”[268]

Finally, as a result of all these investigations, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act was passed in 2010. This act requires drug and medical device manufacturers to disclose to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) all payments or transfers of value made to physicians or teaching hospitals.[269] The CMS also started the Open Payments Program in 2014, which publishes the disclosed payments online in a publicly searchable database.[270] Numerous reporters and investigators have analyzed this data, which has revealed that in 2015, healthcare manufacturing companies have paid doctors and hospitals a total of 7.52 billion dollars.[271]