The World Psychiatric Association’s Melbourne Conference, 25-28 Feb 2018

The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) is holding an international conference in Melbourne. This conference is a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry who benefit from promotion of their drug products during such conferences. The WPA has a long history of conflicts of interest which includes drug companies: Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen-Cilag, Pfizer, Servier and Wyeth.[i]  The conference itself is being financed in part by major pharmaceutical companies Jannsen, Lundbeck and Otsuka. The result will be even more Australian children being prescribed psychiatric drugs.


  • A staggering 49,052 Australian children aged 12-16 are taking antidepressants, of these, 1,400 are aged two to six years.[ii]  This is despite the fact that no antidepressant is authorised for use in children under 18 for depression. Australia’s drug regulatory agency, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warns antidepressants could induce suicidal thinking and behaviour in this age group.[iii]
  • As of October 2016, the TGA Adverse Drug Reactions Database reported 94 suicides linked to antidepressants—a 118% increase since April 2011. Of these, four were aged between 14 and 16. A further 311 suicide attempts and 511 reports of suicidal behaviour were reported during the same time period—a shocking 46% increase.[iv]
  • Another 80,524 children aged 2-16 are on ADHD drugs, nearly 5,000 of those under the age of 6.[v] These drugs are known to cause stunted growth, heart problems and sudden death. A further 16,570 children aged 2-16 are on antipsychotics.[vi]  Adverse drug reactions reported to the TGA for antipsychotics reveal a 10-year-old boy gained 3 stone (19kg) while on Risperdal and a 15-year-old gained 23 kg in 3 weeks while on Olanzapine. [vii]


One of the WPA Organising Committee members, Australian psychiatrist Prof. Patrick McGorry, champions “early intervention”, specifically treating youth at “ultra high risk” of psychosis before they develop psychosis.  This is the use of an arbitrary list of behavioural symptoms which he claims can predict the early onset of “psychosis” and so treat now. McGorry himself originally stated that as many as 80% will never go on to develop the psychosis they were being treated for. [viii] The danger is antipsychotics with Australian government drug warnings for diabetes, liver damage and potentially fatal side effects could be prescribed to youth who are at so called “ultra high risk” of psychosis. [ix]

McGorry also founded Australia’s “headspace” youth mental health centres some of which have a Youth Early Psychosis Program which includes diagnosing “ultra high risk of psychosis.” A recent University of NSW study highlighted the ineffectiveness of headspace revealing only 13% of the 26,058 users of headspace stated they had “clinically significant improvement” and 24.3% either declined or significantly worsened.[x] Despite rampant ineffectiveness, more headspace centres are to be set up with $30 million of Federal Government funds given to headspace in January 2018.[xi]

McGorry has received unrestricted research grants from Janssen-Cilag, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer and Novartis and has acted as a paid consultant, for and has received speaker’s fees and travel reimbursement from all or most of these companies.


Additionally, the conference website fails to publicly disclose any of the many conflicts of interest between psychiatrists speaking and the pharmaceutical industry- undermining credibility and impartiality. Key pharmaceutical company conflicts with speakers are so numerous as are some of their conflicts of interest, we couldn’t include them all. A sample includes:

  • Prof. Ian Hickie has served on advisory boards for specific antidepressants convened by pharmaceutical industry;[xii] has been paid for educational seminars/resources by Servier, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Eli Lilly; research support from Servier and Pfizer..[xiii]
  • Prof. Michael Berk has received honoraria for speaking engagements from AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Glaxo SmithKline, Janssen Cilag, Lundbeck, Organon, Pfizer, Sanofi Synthelabo, Solvay, Wyeth, and served as a consultant to AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Glaxo Smith Kline, Janssen Cilag, Lundbeck and Pfizer.
  • Associate Professor Brian Dean has been a speaker for Eli Lilly and Janssen Cilag and has acted as a Consultant for Merck and Bristol Myer Squibb.”[xiv]
  • Prof. Gin S. Malhi – has served on a number of international and national pharmaceutical advisory boards, received funding for research and has received honoraria for talks at sponsored meetings worldwide involving the following companies: AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Jansen-Cilag, Organon, Pfizer and Wyeth[xv]
  • Perminder  Sachdev – has  done  Continuing  Education  activities  with  Novartis and  Eli Lilly.[xvi]  Has been awarded two unrestricted research grants from Eli Lilly. [xvii]


Parents have a right to know of all the alternatives and potential side effects of psychotropic drugs proposed for their children, so they can give fully informed consent. While children and youth can suffer emotional trauma, parents are not told that unlike for medical conditions, there are no blood or urine test, no brain scan (MRI, PET scan) or any genetic test to scientifically/medically confirm the existence of mental disorders children are labelled with. Mental problems while very real, are not physical diseases.

Children and adults should be given holistic, humane care that improves their condition. They need a safe environment, good nutrition, rest, exercise and help with life’s problems. Extensive medical evidence proves that underlying and un-diagnosed physical illnesses can manifest as “psychiatric symptoms” and therefore should be addressed with the correct medical treatment.

WARNING: No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent medical practitioner.


  • Log onto Citizens Committee on Human Rights Psychiatric Drug Side-effect Database: To order your free copy of “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe” go to


CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and the late Professor of Psychiatry, Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.



[ii]             Department of Human Services, Strategic Information Division, Information Branch, PBS/RPBS Reports for Requested Items, Request Number: MI5329, Numbers on antidepressants in 2015
[iv] Generate reports of side effects on this link for each antidepressant and then add the statistics from each report.
[vii]            Therapeutic Goods Administration Public Case Details, Case numbers: 226233 and 196954.
[viii]           Patrick McGorry et al, “Early Intervention in Psychosis: Concepts, Evidence and Future Directions,” World Psychiatry 7:3 October 2008, p. 151.
[ix]             Australian Clinical Guidelines for Early Psychosis, second edition June 201, Orygen, page 7, 52.
[x]             “Is headspace making a difference to young people’s lives? Final report of the independent evaluation of the headspace program,” UNSW, 2015, publically released Dec 2016, pages 6, 42.
[xii]            Ian B Hickie, Daniel F Hermens and Elizabeth M Scott,  “Targeted primary care-based mental health services for young Australians,” The Medical Journal of Australia, 2012;196 (10); 627.
[xiii]           National Mental Health Commission- Register of Interests May 2012.
[xiv]           Brian Dean Pharma
[xv]            Acta Psychiatr Scand 2009: 119 (Suppl. 439): pages 40,4
[xvi]           (2008 Black Dog Institute Yearly Report page 49
[xvii]           (Perminder Sachdev)
(ASPR Awards)
(Incentive awards – RANZCP)