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How Do You Know What a Doctor Says Is True When the Facts Smell Like Cash?

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DRUG MONEY
DailyFeed
How young is too young to be depressed?

If you're like me, it's never too early to start ambling down the pitted road of existential despair and misery. Recently, reports have surfaced that claim clinical depression can begin at age two. Which may very well be true. What's important, however, is that we know who funded those reports (Big Pharma), in order to establish a balanced point of view on the subject (Big Pharma).

Over the weekend, in an article titled "Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?", the New York Times Magazine quoted one Joan Luby, a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, who maintains the answer is yes.

“The idea is very threatening,” she said. “In my 20 years of research, it’s been slowly eroding. But some hard-core scientists still brush the idea off as mushy or psychobabble, and laypeople think the idea is ridiculous.”

Jim Edwards over at BNet.com writes, "The 'ridiculous' layperson...was me."

From a biological perspective, according to one New York City psychiatrist who spoke with the Daily Feed, depression at such a young age is entirely possible--which couldn't make the drug companies happier. From an analytical perspective, the picture becomes slightly fuzzier, when factoring in the "nurture" side of the "nature vs. nurture" equation.

What is not in dispute, however, is that Luby, as pointed out by BNet's Edwards, has a horse in this race--and she's not being completely above board when it comes to full disclosure.

Edwards says that "Luby has taken cash from Johnson & Johnson, Shire, and AstraZeneca...to study using atypical antipsychotics in young children"--drugs which can be prescribed off-label to treat depression.

He further points out that the article is "significant because of the outsize role that the Times magazine plays in creating and naming new social trends."

In fact, Edwards reminds us that it was the NYT mag that brought the Atkins Diet into the mainstream. Here's a piece from the 2002 story:

"If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true."

Whether or not depression exists in two year-olds is not for me to determine. I'm sure that any living being can suffer from depression. Or anxiety. Or any one of the myriad mental illnesses to which people of all ages are susceptible.

Have Joan Luby's findings been influenced by Big Pharma dollars? We'll never know. And therein lies the problem.
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