Citizens Commission on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Conflicts of interest not revealed in call for $3.5 billion more for mental health funding

dollar symbol in front of Aust flag shaped mapWhile “The Independent Mental Health Reform Group” called for an extra $3.5 billion to be spent on mental health in its A blueprint to transform Mental Health, concerns were raised over the inappropriate use of the term “independent” in the name of this group. Even a cursory inspection of the main group members, who are part of a high profile promotional media campaign to take a larger slice of the health budget, revealed conflicts of interest with drug companies who also profit from increased budgetary allocations. Some group members already directly advise the Federal Government.

Present/past conflicts of interest of this “independent group” include:

  • Ian Hickie has served on professional advisory boards convened by Bristol-Myers Squibb & Eli Lilly. 1 Hickie received $70,000 from Bristol Myers Squibb to develop the depression checklist for the depression-training program for GPs, called SPHERE which he founded. Pfizer also fund SPHERE. Wyeth, Servier and AstraZenica have also funded Hickie. 2
  • Patrick Mcgorry has received unrestricted research grant support from Janssen- Cilag, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myer Squibb, Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer, and Novartis. He has acted as a paid consultant for, and has received speaker’s fees and travel reimbursement from, all or most of these companies. 3
  • Sebastian Rosenberg, former CEO of the Mental Health Council, is currently the Director of the mental health business ConNetica’s whose website lists one of its “Private Sector Customers” as Eli Lilly. 4 Rosenberg worked for the Mental Health Council between 2005 and 2010. The Mental Health Council in 2004 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 5 drug companies. This agreement has continued every year. The 2009/10 Annual Report lists out Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Wyeth and AstraZeneca as the drug companies currently on this Memorandum of Understanding. 5
  • John Moran and Mathew Hamilton work for Orygen (youth mental health organization) with McGorry. Orygen acknowledge Bristol Myers Squibb Australia, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Janssen-Cilag on their website for funding support of research and service development activities 6 and Pfizer lists Orygen as receiving funds for educational events in 2010. 7

The most recent call for funds includes over $1 billion for 15 Early Psychosis Centres and expansion of headspace – both part of McGorry’s Orygen who has conflicts of interest with drug companies. 8 9

The demand for further funds comes with the startling admission that Australia cannot produce any outcome reports for the billions already spent from past mental health budgets, a inability which doesn’t seem to plague other areas of health or any other department.

In the report A blueprint to transform Mental Health, the authors state: “Australia is currently outcome blind in mental health, unable to assess the real impact of $5.5bn annual spending”. This highlights the considerable controversy within the psychiatric profession over the efficacy of current programs in place. The calls for increased funding when mental health funding is at a highest ever, site “lack of money” as the excuse of lack of documented outcomes. This must prompt politicians to start looking at the programs themselves and to look at who is profiting from constant increased funding with no discernable improvement.

An immediate investigation and audit needs to be conducted into any mis-management, lack of efficacy of programs despite millions being poured into them and the sheer waste of funding on programs that cannot show any outcome. If current spending were effectively being used, mental illness rates would be falling not increasing.

CCHR’s Shelley Wilkins says, “Pharmaceutical company conflicts of interest do not serve the people who need help. No-one with any drug company conflicts of interest should be on any committee which advises the government. There are many highly qualified mental health consultants with absolutely no drug ties that could be listened to.”

The Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz established CCHR to expose psychiatric violations of human rights.

  1. “Is Depression OverDagiagnosed? No,” Prof. Gordon Parker and Ian Hickie, BMJ, 18 Nov. 2007. Also on
  5. — Page 21
  6. Page 58