The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.
Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension.
A 2002 ad for Adderall showed a mother playing with her son and saying, “Thanks for taking out the garbage.”
Talk about passive-aggressive marketing. But there are even worse, more insidious “Joe Camel” kinds of advertising that Big Pharma is engaging in.
Companies even try to speak to youngsters directly. Shire — the longtime market leader, with several A.D.H.D. medications including Adderall — recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to demystify the disorder and uses superheroes to tell children, “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!”
Comic book superheroes? Adderall Man? Leaps tall buildings in a single bound (while acing his SAT’s and reading “War and Peace”)? If that isn’t a Joe Camel issue, I don’t know what is…big business selling drug addiction. And it’s very successful.
Profits for the A.D.H.D. drug industry have soared. Sales of stimulant medication in 2012 were nearly $9 billion, more than five times the $1.7 billion a decade before, according to the data company IMS Health.
Now targeting adults, Shire and two patient advocacy groups have recruited celebrities like the Maroon 5 musician Adam Levine for their marketing campaign, “It’s Your A.D.H.D. – Own It.” Online quizzes sponsored by drug companies are designed to encourage people to pursue treatment.
One of my favorite methods of ADHD diagnosis is the online quiz. Because theoretically, if you had ADHD, would you be able to complete the quiz?
Adults searching for information on A.D.H.D. encounter websites with short quizzes that can encourage normal people to think they might have it. Many such tests are sponsored by drug companies in ways hidden or easily missed.
“Could you have A.D.H.D.?” beckons one quiz, sponsored by Shire, on the website everydayhealth.com. Six questions ask how often someone has trouble in matters like “getting things in order,” “remembering appointments” or “getting started” on projects.
A user who splits answers evenly between “rarely” and “sometimes” receives the result “A.D.H.D. Possible.” Five answers of “sometimes” and one “often” tell the user, “A.D.H.D. May Be Likely.”
Isn’t that great…you don’t even have to complete the quiz for us to diagnose you. And you have Big Pharma spokesmen like Adam Levine, who himself is walking ADD trip wire (meaning when I see or hear him sing, my own ADD kicks in and I reach for the remote…own it!) and Ty Pennington (another reason to change the channel) making it all cool to be f’d up. Or something.
A medical education video sponsored by Shire portrays a physician making a diagnosis of the disorder in an adult in a six-minute conversation, after which the doctor recommends medication.
Like most psychiatric conditions, A.D.H.D. has no definitive test, and most experts in the field agree that its symptoms are open to interpretation by patients, parents and doctors. The American Psychiatric Association, which receives significant financing from drug companies, has gradually loosened the official criteria for the disorder to include common childhood behavior like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.”
Which is, like, every single child or adolescent under the age of 18. All of them. And they should be because their pre-frontal cortex’s are still under construction during childhood and adolescence. You can view impulse control as being a normal developmental stage, or an “illness” that requires the synapses to be zapped with medication.
Also, as I’ve written about for years on this blog, the symptomology has become so broad and extensive (net-widening in other areas of corrections) that virtually any child or adult with a pulse could now be suffering from ADHD (or any other virtual psychosomatic condition). Look at the creation of Adderall itself.
Modern marketing of stimulants began with the name Adderall itself. Mr. Griggs bought a small pharmaceutical company that produced a weight-loss pill named Obetrol. Suspecting that it might treat a relatively unappreciated condition then called attention deficit disorder, and found in about 3 to 5 percent of children, he took “A.D.D.” and fiddled with snappy suffixes. He cast a word with the widest net.
A.D.D. for All.
“It was meant to be kind of an inclusive thing,” Mr. Griggs recalled.
[sound of crickets chirping]
And then they enlisted their army of pushers in lab coats to take these drugs for all to the streets.
Adderall quickly established itself as a competitor of the field’s most popular drug, Ritalin. Shire, realizing the drug’s potential, bought Mr. Griggs’s company for $186 million and spent millions more to market the pill to doctors. After all, patients can buy only what their physicians buy into.
As is typical among pharmaceutical companies, Shire gathered hundreds of doctors at meetings at which a physician paid by the company explained a new drug’s value.
For which the psychiatrists receive ongoing kickbacks for every dispensation.
Many of the scientific studies cited by drug company speakers involved Dr. Joseph Biederman, a prominent child psychiatrist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2008, a Senate investigation revealed that Dr. Biederman’s research on many psychiatric conditions had been substantially financed by drug companies, including Shire. Those companies also paid him $1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees. He has denied that the payments influenced his research.
Of course. And then there are the Big Pharma-funded advocacy groups (again, long written about on this blog) like CHADD whose job it is to ensnare anxious parents into the web of dismay.
The primary A.D.H.D. patient advocacy group, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Chadd, was founded in 1987 to gain greater respect for the condition and its treatment with Ritalin, the primary drug available at the time. Start-up funding was provided by Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Ritalin’s primary manufacturer. Further drug company support helped create public service announcements and pamphlets, some of which tried to dispel concerns about Ritalin; one Chadd “fact sheet” conflicted with 60 years of science in claiming, “Psychostimulant drugs are not addictive.”
A 1995 documentary on PBS detailed how Chadd did not disclose its relationship with drug companies to either the Drug Enforcement Administration, which it was then lobbying to ease government regulation of stimulants, or the Department of Education, with which it collaborated on an A.D.H.D. educational video.
A.D.H.D. patient advocates often say that many parents resist having their child evaluated because of the stigma of mental illness and the perceived risks of medication. To combat this, groups have published lists of “Famous People With A.D.H.D.” to reassure parents of the good company their children could join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now posted on the psychcentral.com information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates.
LOL. Not only do we over-diagnose this condition today, we can magically go back and retroactively diagnose historical figures who “had trouble completing projects” like the Civil War, or discovering several planets in outer space.
Anyway, last point, and where it ties back to sociology and learning theory for me.
Because studies have shown that A.D.H.D. can run in families, drug companies use the children’s market to grow the adult one. A pamphlet published in 2008 by Janssen, Concerta’s manufacturer — headlined “Like Parent, Like Child?” — claimed that “A.D.H.D. is a highly heritable disorder” despite studies showing that the vast majority of parents of A.D.H.D. children do not qualify for a diagnosis themselves.
A current Shire manual for therapists illustrates the genetic issue with a family tree: three grandparents with the disorder, all six of their children with it, and seven of eight grandchildren, too.
Lost on these dopes is the idea that symptoms such as those associated with ADHD might in fact be simple learned behavior. Like alcoholism or suicide and family history…it’s not in the genes, it’s in the environment, the learned behavior.
Regardless, go and read this article. It’s as if Alan Schwarz the NYT reporter read my blog cover to cover as he pursued his writing, because these are issues I have been howling about for over a decade in the classroom and on this blog since 2007.
The control that Big Pharma and the psychiatric-industrial complex exercise over society is astonishing in both its breadth and scope. And it’s not a “conspiracy theory” to suggest that social control, capitalism and corporatism win out over the army of robots being created on a daily basis via these insidious diagnoses.
Cross Posted from The Power Elite