Australian ADHD Guidelines Halted: Call for Full Disclosure of Vested Interests of Committee

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians Draft ADHD Guidelines have been halted under a cloud of controversy as it was revealed that US psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, is currently under U.S. Congressional investigation for his undisclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Biederman, whose studies are cited more than 70 times in the draft ADHD guidelines, has confessed to receiving up to US$1.6 million to research and promote specific drugs, clearly a conflict of interest.

The Guidelines were being developed by a committee with financial ties to drug companies that produce the very drugs that appeared as the first line of treatment for ADHD in the draft guidelines. Full disclosure to the public of any vested interests of the Committee members drafting the Guidelines has never been made.

A Freedom of Information request by Australian Office of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) for the Vested Interest Disclosure Documents partially revealed the extent of drug company connections by Committee Members in attendance at the first meeting of the draft guidelines. Along with additional research it was found:

The Committee reported that it analyzed 265 studies in the Draft Systematic Review document which was then used to write the Guidelines. A total of 89 or 31% of these “studies” were industry funded. By way of example, Russell Barkley, Ph.D., a renowned proponent of “ADHD” and stimulant treatment, has more than 30 studies referenced. In 2007, almost a quarter (24%) of his income was from drug companies.[x] He is a key advisor to the U.S. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) that U.S. media in 2006 exposed for its conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry and the fact that it does not publish critical information about ADHD drugs, including an FDA warning in 2005 that the ADHD drug, Straterra, caused suicide. Eli Lilly, the maker of Straterra is one of CHADD’s biggest donors. [xi]

A key point still not disclosed, is the names of pharmaceutical companies or amounts of money paid, nor does it reflect the personal money industry researchers like Dr. Biederman received as paid advocates of the pharmaceutical industry— essentially marketing of mental disorders to sell drugs.

The studies picked by the Committee were clearly biased towards proposing drug treatment as the first line treatment activity and do not reflect contrary findings, including:

In 2005, researchers at the Evidence-based Practice Center of Oregon Health & Science University reviewed 2,287 studies of 16 ADHD drugs— representing virtually every study ever conducted on ADHD drugs—and determined that no trials had shown the effectiveness of current ADHD drugs. They also found a lack of evidence that these drugs could affect “academic performance, risky behaviors, social achievements, etc.”[xii] The Draft Guideline left this vital document out of its recommendations.

Australia has the third highest rate of Ritalin consumption in the world behind Canada and the United States. Ritalin is a pharmacologically similar to cocaine.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has reported 863 suspected adverse reactions to ADHD drugs. These include the sudden death of a 7 year old and a 5 year old that suffered a stroke after taking Ritalin.[xiii]

For further information please contact CCHR, which was co-founded by the Church of Scientology & Professor of Psychiatry, Dr Thomas Szasz in 1969 to investigate psychiatric violations against human rights.


[i] Clinical Excellence Commission Report:  “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and adolescents in New South Wales- 2007. Final Report of the Special Review, December 2007,”  page 64.

[ii] Neilson Martin, Megan McDougall and David A Hay, “What are the key directions in the genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2008 in press.

[iii] “Teenagers with ADHD”  http://www.adhdsupport.com.au/pdf/adolescent.pdf accessed 18th July 2008,  See page 2.
[iv] Freedom of Information Request done by Citizens Committee on Human Rights to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Documents released to CCHR on 12 December 2008.

[v] Freedom of Information Request done by Citizens Committee on Human Rights to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Documents released to CCHR on 15 September 2008.

[vi] Freedom of Information Request done by Citizens Committee on Human Rights to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Documents released to CCHR on 15 September 2008.

[vii] Freedom of Information Request done by Citizens Committee on Human Rights to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Documents released to CCHR on 15 September 2008.

[viii] Freedom of Information Request done by Citizens Committee on Human Rights to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. Documents released to CCHR on 8 January 2009

[ix] Royal and Australasian College of Physicians Guidelines on Attention Deficit Disorder Draft for Public Consultation 2008, page 130.

[x] Russell A. Barkle, Ph.D., Official Site, http://www.russellbarkley.org/about-dr-barkley.html

[xi] Thomas Ginsberg, “Donations tie drug firms and non-profits; Many patient groups reveal few, if any, details on relationships with pharmaceutical donors,” The Philadelphia Enquirer, 28 May 2006.

[xii] “Drug Class Review on Pharmacologic Treatments for ADHD,” Final Report, Evidence-based Practice Center of Oregon Health & Science University, Sept. 2005; M. Alexander Otto, “Are ADHD Drugs Safe?  Report Finds Little Proof,” The News Tribune, 26 Sept. 2005.

[xiii] Clara Pirani, “Children on ADHD drugs hit by heart attacks and stroke,” Weekend Australian, 27 Mar. 2006.





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