So now we hear that a Harvard psychiatrist apparently hid millions of dollars in payments from pharmaceutical companies, all while promoting the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs for children. This comes at a time when the big increase in prescriptions in bipolar disorder for children is ever more controversial. Given all this, how can parents decide whether medication is the right choice for their child?
Dismayed by this latest news, I called Robert Hendren, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, who points out that while there's plenty of controversy in child psychiatry about how to diagnose bipolar disorder, Joseph Biederman, the child psychiatrist at the center of the scandal, is not the only person contributing to the knowledge base. "We do think that we have good information," Hendren says. "We do see children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, and we do find that these medications work better than placebo."
But if the news of academic conflicts of interest has you feeling a bit more skeptical, here are three tactics to track down the most reliable evidence available:
"Parents have control over this process," Hendren says. "They get to be the judge."