The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Standardisation of Psychiatric Practice

“Psychiatry has been rather successful at growing business – perhaps even more so than other branches of medicine and even more so since its turn to the body and drugs that can be impossible to stop.”

Prof. David Healy has contributed a chapter – “The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Standardisation of Psychiatric Practice” – to a book titled Mind State and Society produced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The chapter begins:

The 1950s saw the largely serendipitous discovery in clinical settings of a series of psychotropic drugs, produced primarily in the pharmaceutical divisions of European chemical companies. This accompanied the discovery of antibiotics and medicines for other clinical conditions. While there were large chemical companies and a proprietary medicines industry, there was then no pharmaceutical industry as we know it. The nascent companies producing psychotropics, however, were quick to set up international meetings that brought basic scientists and clinical delegates together from all continents.

In the wake of the Second World War, German psychiatry and medicine lost ground, opening a door for English to become the lingua franca of the medical world. This and the detour American psychiatry took into psychoanalysis fostered the reputations of British psychiatrists. As of 1960, British academic psychiatry was ‘social’. Social meant epidemiological rather than committed to the idea that mental illness was social rather than biological in origin. Social psychiatrists began thinking in terms of the operational criteria and other procedures that would enable research on the incidence and prevalence of nervous problems. Among the leading figures were Michael Shepherd, John Wing and others from the Institute of Psychiatry, who worked to establish methods which laid the basis for an international pilot study of schizophrenia on the one hand to studies on the incidence of primary care nervous disorders, not then part of psychiatry, on the other. These latter studies provided a template for other studies undertaken since then that, perhaps even more in mental health than in any other branch of medicine, created markets for pharmaceuticals …”

You can read more from here.

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