Harvard University’s Joseph Biederman, world’s biggest bi-polar diagnosis booster, is making life a little difficult for his psychiatry colleagues at Mass General. Short version: You don’t want to be too closely associated with his antidepressants-for-tots drive, his undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and his influential insistence that zillions of American children, teens, and adults are bi-polar.

So let’s say you’re Harvard’s Andrew Nierenberg, and you want to light into Marcia Angell because you’re pissed that she’s down on antidepressants. Of course, you concede in a letter attacking her arguments, it’s “heart-breaking” that there have been some cases in which nightmarish damage was done to children who were over- or mis-prescribed these very powerful drugs… But a case here or there should in no way lead us to suppose that the harmful dispensing of such drugs is a serious trend.

In her response, Angell points out the enormous influence Harvard, and Nierenberg’s colleague there (Joe), had on all those MDs giving all those children drugs. Biederman was – is! – the bi-polar man; he is almost singularly responsible for the astonishing inflation of pediatric bi-polar diagnoses and treatments in the United States in the last few years. Nierenberg co-authored papers, etc., with Biederman. Hence it’s a little on the disgusting side for Nierenberg to lecture us on the heartbreak of mis- and over-diagnosis without at least alluding to his own profoundly influential hospital’s financially compromised advocacy of the diagnosis.


Nierenberg refer[s] to the death of Rebecca Riley, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as ADHD when she was just two years old, as a “tragic anecdote.” While that is true, I believe it should also be seen in the context of the extraordinary epidemic of juvenile bipolar disease that was stimulated largely by the teachings of some of Dr. Nierenberg’s colleagues [Biederman and two others] at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Three of them were recently disciplined by the hospital for not having disclosed some of their hefty payments from drug companies.

UD‘s advice to Nierenberg: Be like Australia. Distance yourself.

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3 Responses to “Joseph and His Brothers”

  1. dmf Says:

    these are the ER cases that stick with you, parents having trusted medical providers to care for their children and so ending up having taken an active, tho unwitting, part in poisoning their own children, that’s tragic and truly haunting.
    got to keep those stock values up I guess.

  2. adam Says:

    It’s readily apparent that Marcia Angell can take care of herself against lightweight critics like Andrew Nierenberg and Richard Friedman.

  3. dmf Says:

    @adam, I wish that superior reasoning/research were the way to winning such conflicts but more often than not money rules the day so we as citizens have to stay vigilant and support valiant folks like Angell even when they are not getting big press, this will be a long drawn out war and the other side has vast resources.

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