Today's Australian newspaper has an article on page 3, `Campaign' targets depression guru Ian Hickie. Hickie is a psychiatrist who is the Australian governments Mental Health Commissioner and has influenced significant changes in government policy. My limited perspective is that many of these changes are positive. They have helped reduce social stigmas associated with mental health problems and made treatments more accessible. However, a major beneficiary of these changes have been drug companies. Furthermore, there are questions about whether anti-depressants are being over-prescribed and cognitive therapies are being under-valued, both to the detriment of patients best interests.
Hickie is being criticised because he published a paper in The Lancet commending a drug produced by a company that he had financial and grant ties to. The methodology and conclusions of the paper are being criticised.
I believe that when there are large amounts of money (company profits and/or grant funding) and power (prizes and careers) at stake it is hard for the beneficiaries to be objective and perform the best science. That is human nature! This is regardless of the sincerity and best intentions of investigators and public declarations of possible conflicts of interest. Adding to the mix politics and government policy becomes even more problematic.