Joseph Biederman is Still at Harvard

Joseph Biederman is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. It makes a certain sense. According to Wikipedia, in 2007 he was

the second highest producer of high-impact papers in psychiatry overall throughout the world with 235 papers cited a total of 7048 times over the past 10 years as determined by the Institute for Scientific Information.

And he has won several awards:

Biederman was the recipient of the 1998 NAMI Exemplary Psychiatrist award. He was also selected by the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society Awards committee as the recipient of the 2007 Outstanding Psychiatrist Award for Research. In 2007, Biederman received the Excellence in Research Award from the New England Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He was also awarded the Mentorship Award from the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

But there’s also this:

Biederman had pioneered the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents, a disorder previously thought to affect only adults. One of the world’s most influential child psychiatrists, Biederman’s work led to a 40-fold increase in pediatric bipolar disorder diagnoses and an accompanying expansion in the use of antipsychotic drugs – developed to treat schizophrenia and not originally approved for use in children – to treat the condition. However, Biederman and his colleagues Spencer and Wilens failed to accurately disclose the large consultancy fees they were receiving from pharmaceutical companies that make antipsychotics whilst conducting this research.

For which Biederman received a slap on the wrist from Harvard.

And there’s this:

Dr. Biederman pushed [Johnson & Johnson] to finance a research center at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, with a goal to “move forward the commercial goals of J.& J” [said Biederman in an email]

In other words, he felt no shame in admitting that he considered the commercial goals of Johnson & Johnson more important than the health of children with severe problems. One of the few people who can really help these children — by doing good research — he preferred to help Johnson & Johnson.

7 Responses to “Joseph Biederman is Still at Harvard”

  1. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Biederman and his cohorts brought great harm on countless children and adolescents. Children who are diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder usually receive powerful psychiatric drugs that allegedly treat their “illness”. In reality, the drugs cause brain damage that actually worsens the long-term outcome for those children. Robert Whitaker lays out the evidence in his outstanding book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (the Amazon link is here.) Anyone who takes psychiatric drugs (antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, Ritalin, etc.) — or has a loved one who takes such drugs — should read the book.

    Seth: I hope someone writes a book about Biederman and his enablers.

  2. dearieme Says:

    Alas, being a famous university implies no absence of crooks, conmen, spivs, and chaps who sail close to the wind.

    Seth: No one word (such as “crook”) does justice here. Because of Biederman’s great influence, the good he might have done (but doesn’t do), the targeting of young children, the bad health of these children to begin with, the involvement of drug ingestion . . . the noxiousness of it is monumental.

  3. Alex Says:

    Seth, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  4. Ruth Says:

    We open our newspapers and see some monster who murdered a child and have a hard time understanding it. But the Biedermans out there are the real monsters. They have destroyed many hundreds and thousands of lives by setting a chain of events in kids’ lives that lead to homelessness, institutionalization, suicide, or just a miserable, unhealthy life.

    I always wonder how people like this live with themselves.

  5. Adam Says:

    But is he rich?

  6. Kyle Says:

    He’s relatively rich. According to this article he got paid “$1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees” from drug companies.

    Do you guys have any good ideas in terms of leading a campaign against this guy?

  7. Crystal Says:

    This came out of left field! From the headline, it seems like you expect his sacking, but there’s no reference to anything recent that might justify it, or even what prompted you to write it.

    I went hunting through archives, and it was 2011 when you last had a post in him, so this one, failing to include any reference to the background of your previous posts, and with no actual update material in it, just makes you look as though you have some kind of vendetta going. Consider you previously made mention of comments by his lawyer, did you really expect that an institution like Harvard would risk drawing attention by turfing him out without very good cause?

    You’re treading a very slippery slope here. Imagine the consequences if anyone’s job could be put at risk by someone in the public domain calling for their head, and more so, over things that are long since past and which, presumably, they’ve given no indication is still their mode of practice?

    I fail to see any actual point for this article, I’m afraid, and it comes across as particularly emotionally driven. Not what I’ve come to expect of you, Seth.


    Seth: For money and/or career, Biederman has used — and is still using — his enormously powerful position to cause many thousands of sick helpless children to be given drugs that almost certainly damage them. He deserves this post and much more.